BOXWOOD GULCH, CO
Steaks, troops, and the spirit of service all wrapped up into one great event. Hard to believe that it's almost time for the All American Beef Battalion (AABB) to head to Colorado for a very special event that our tween daughters helped with nearly one year ago.
This year's event is set for Saturday, July 16, and the AABB will again provide ribeye steaks and all the fixings for troops and their families at Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF) here in Boxwood Gulch, Co.
Known as 'Battle of the Boxwood,' the sixth annual event in 2015 attracted nearly 150 veterans of war, sponsors and celebrities and as many are expected this year on July 16th.
Steve Perry, PHWFF Rocky Mountain Regional Coordinator, said the AABB has been a part of PHWFF the past six years. 'The goal of PHWFF is to help with the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled veterans and injured service members,' Perry added.
According to Perry, service men and women are placed on a team. Each team includes two participants, one celebrity, one guide and one significant donor. Celebrities for the 2015 PHWFF event were retired members of the National Hockey League. This year 's celebrities will include Bronco's legend Carl Mecklenburg as well as nearly 20 other retired National Football League and National Hockey League players and music industry celebrities.
'We provide an environment that is solely for helping our participants using volunteers at no cost to the participants,' Perry explained. 'Relationships are built through these activities which go beyond the individual event and become long term friendships. The participants know we are here for them and that we genuinely want to help them. A special bonding occurs that is surrounded by a fly fishing activity environment which is a perfect match for aiding in the recovery for our disabled veterans and injured service members.'
Not many people think of beef when they think of the U.S. military, but that's just what Bill Broadie had in mind when he envisioned the AABB 10 years ago. It was only a vision in 2006, but after a lot of red tape and hard work, perseverance finally paid off and Broadie's dream of combining his two passions, ranching and the U.S. military, came to fruition when the All American Beef Battalion was created in 2008.
'We fed our first troops ribeye steaks in 2008,' Broadie said. 'I was ready to give up, but finally, one day I was in the right place at the right time and the AABB was approved by the proper channels in the U.S. military.'
Broadie served in the U.S. Marines 3rd Division 2/4 and during his service he was shot twice, the 2nd shot cost him his leg and ended his military service. The Purple Heart recipient attended college, became a 4th generation rancher and married the love of his life.
He retired from fulltime ranching to work for Superior Livestock, a North American cattle auctioneering business, and is one of their top sales representatives today.
Broadie believes the AABB is a way to build awareness to better serve our military. The AABB organizes and sponsors steak feeds across the country and to date has fed 315,000 troops and their families. 'We are totally volunteer and 100 percent of our donations go towards our steak feeds,' Broadie explained. 'We foster an appreciation, respect and honor for our armed forces.
'Our mission is to promote American beef and support the troops and their families fighting the war on terror,' Broadie added. 'It's a way for us to say thanks, shake a hand, lend a hand to those who have served our country and who have protected our freedoms.'
Cathy Blair serves on the AABB board and believes it's important to the military that they are appreciated and their sacrifices are recognized. 'Having served 315,000, the outpouring of financial support is reflective of the need for a catalyst of this type of organization that can bring the beef industry and our military together,' Mrs. Blair said. 'The AABB is a reminder that there are everyday Americans out there, not just friends and family, that are supportive of our military — just a quick way to say thank you to each and every one we serve.'
The AABB travels through the U.S. supporting troops. They help with special projects, events, entertainment, programs, and meetings with service members and their families by serving American beef.
'AABB is absolutely contributing to aiding the overall effort of PHWFF,' said Perry. 'We live in a great time for our country that sees the spirit and action of volunteers such as those from AABB. I truly appreciate the efforts of all the volunteers and on behalf of our organization I hope the relationship lasts for years.'
Most AABB volunteers for the PHWFF event drove hundreds of miles from Kansas and Nebraska for the day-long event. No one gets paid, according to Broadie. 'We just all share a passion for supporting our military and passion for the beef community,' he said.
'We are so lucky to have such a dedicated group of volunteers assisting with this premier event for PHWFF,' Perry added. 'I am fortunate enough to attend many similar PHWFF events each year and we do not have a better meal provided anywhere.'
Specialist E4 Danny Schnacky – US Army, served two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He traveled from Wisconsin for the PHWFF with his future father-in-law, Nate Place. 'This was my first time to the event and it was amazing,' Specialist Schnacky said. 'I was amazed at the generosity of the AABB for providing such an incredible meal. I had no inclination that we would be eating like royalty.'
Specialist Schnacky said he was thankful that Bill Broadie had the vision to start AABB as a way to thank troops. 'What an awesome cause and an honorable man,' Specialist Schnacky said referring to AABB founder Broadie. 'I am thankful for what he started and what the volunteers contribute to. I was floored to hear that the AABB travels around the country sponsoring free meals for military events.
'The outpouring of support and friendliness from the AABB volunteers was and is greatly appreciated,' Specialist Schnacky continued. 'It was great interacting with such incredibly genuine souls. Clearly, the AABB embodies what volunteerism is all about.'
Place reiterated Specialist Schancky's words and said it was great to see that in our busy culture how AABB make such an effort to thank our troops. 'There are still folks (like AABB) who give pause and see with great clarity the importance of 'keeping the world stable' and the need to support those who sacrificed time, family and sometimes their own lives, to do that,' Place said. 'I thought the determination demonstrated by the warriors while fishing was a testament to the focus and determination they most likely demonstrated during their deployments. I thoroughly enjoyed watching them take on a less volatile adversary (trout). We should all be grateful that such selfless men and women have/had our backs.'
David Folkerts, Chief Operations Officer, CPT, US Army (retired) Iraq wounded veteran, said the AABB lunch was excellent. 'Their support is incredible and really helps make this event extra special for the vets and volunteers who attend,' Folkerts added. 'Our program is ongoing and provides the participants a sense of camaraderie that they often have not experienced since they left the military. Learning how to tie flies, build fly rods and catch fish with a fly rod can be a challenging task but the sense of accomplishment that they get out of it is incredible.
'When our participants are on a fishing outing in a beautiful and scenic location it allows them to clear their minds of any negative thoughts or concerns about their physical injuries and allows them to focus and meditate on the task at hand which is fly fishing,' Folkerts explained. 'It is truly an incredible healing experience.'
Steve Payne is the founder and event director for PHWFF and said not only is Project Healing Waters making a difference, but the All American Beef Battalion is making a difference as well.
Payne believes the AABB is making the statement that there are volunteers and everyday Americans who care about our military. 'They (AABB) care whole-heartedly for and the sacrifices they make/made,' Payne added.
Volunteer Bob Larson helped the AABB serve lunch the day of the Project Healing Waters event. With a son serving in the air force, Larson got involved through board member Jon Fort.
'To be able to give such a small amount of personal resources in time and gas money for all that these men and women do and have done for all of us in the country to be able to be free — I count it a privilege to do so,' Larson said.
According to founder Broadie, Jon Fort, vice chair of the AABB board of directors, is who makes sure that all the logistics get organized for events. 'Jon is the man who gets it all done,' Broadie explained. 'He gets the volunteers lined up, the food lined up. I work with a great board of directors representing many states. I have a courageous group of volunteers and no one gets paid.
Just visiting with AABB Founder Broadie one immediately gets drawn to his stories and experiences. He shared a story about a Veteran's Day Program and a little boy's speech that featured the All American Beef Battalion. The boy ended his speech with a powerful message, 'Will you buy a soldier a steak?'
The AABB has two huge feeds coming up in August, one for the Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs and one at Fort Carson. The AABB expects to feed 9,500 troops and their families. If you'd like to support the All American Beef Battalion visit www.SteaksForTroops.com. To learn more about Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing please visit www.projecthealingwaters.org.