Mission: Recovery -- Thanking the troops by giving back

By Taylor Kearns - bio | email

PROSPERITY, SC (WIS) - "Support the troops" and "thank a veteran" are phrases you hear all the time, but a Newberry County man is living those words by taking the handicapped and war-torn into the great outdoors.

The small pond in Newberry County is a long way from Iraq, but no matter how far she travels, Sgt. Althea Wynn will always carry the reminders. "You see so much over there, sometimes you just can't handle it," said Wynn.
Today, though, Wynn's mind isn't on the pain or the PTSD. Today the catfish have her hands full. "I'm not leaving South Carolina without a fish!" she exclaimed.

Wynn and her fellow soldiers from Fort Gordon, Georgia are the guests of Terry Cotney, retiree who is anything but. "I got hooked on helping these needy folks and these soldiers," said Cotney.

Cotney has spent the last few years organizing fishing trips and hunts for special needs groups and wounded veterans. On Wynn's trip, he enlisted the help of the Lake Murray Seniors bass club, one of many groups to hear Cotney's call to service.

"It's all about God and country, so this kill two birds with one stone," Cotney laughed.
A common sentiment, but few have taken it so far. In a modest, rented building in Prosperity, the Freedom Isn't Free Lodge serves as housing for visiting groups -- and as a memorial. Pictures of fallen South Carolinians flank a coffin flag, what Cotney points to as the heart of the operation.

"I just thank God for that flag, for what it stands for, and I love that dear old flag," said Cotney.

If the flag is Cotney's motivation, the vets' happiness is his compensation. "The credit I get is the thank you these guys give," said Cotney. "It's very humbling."
And very moving. Ask Cotney about past hunts, and the tears come as fast as the stories. "To see a grown man cry, 60-year-old man cry and say thank you, it makes it worthwhile," said Cotney. "It's not about the money."

"For us it's just getting out being able to get away from the barracks," said Wynn. "A lot of times you don't think people care but they do."

"We need to show our appreciation," said Cotney. "We see signs everywhere that say support our troops, well actions speak louder than words."
If that's true, Cotney doesn't need to say a thing.

A charity bike and boat run is being held near the lodge on June 12 to help keep the lodge open. For more information, contact either Danny McIver at 803-944-9265 or Becky Wicker at 803-944-1322.

Want to help Cotney or host/sponsor an event? Call 803-271-1861, or e-mail at scubeco@bellsouth.net

Terry Cotney
Freedom Isn't Free Lodge
559 Holland's Landing Road
Prosperity, 29127

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