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TSgt. Brian Williams rides a golf cart through a tunnel of saluting soldiers on his way to the door of the East Grand Forks Cabela's Friday afternoon where he received a $250 shopping spree before heading to Lake of the Woods for a fishing trip. Photo by Kile Brewer/Grand Forks Herald

Big crowd turns out to send military group on Cabela’s spree and fishing trip

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Staff Sgt. Nathan Fair knew he was going to be stopping at the East Grand Forks Cabela’s on Friday afternoon on his way to Lake of the Woods, but the walleye novice said he didn’t expect the reception that awaited him outside the store.

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An active duty soldier serving on the U.S. Army Drill Team at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Fair was one of five military or family members treated to a Cabela’s shopping spree Friday afternoon as part of a “Hometown Heroes” event the store hosted.

A crowd estimated at more than 275 people showed up outside the store to welcome Fair, Tech Sgt. Brian Williams and Melissa Jarboe, whose husband, Sgt. Jamie Jarboe, was shot by a sniper and later died from his injuries.

“I was extremely surprised” by the turnout, Fair said.

Williams, a single-leg amputee wounded in Afghanistan, is a Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient and active-duty Air Force soldier stationed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey.

“I had goose bumps,” Williams said of the reception, adding he’s never fished a day in his life.

The surprise reception included local National Guard units, fire and rescue personnel from Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, Boy Scouts, members of the Polk County Mounted Posse and members of the Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle group, among others.

Gearing up

The military and family members honored Friday afternoon were en route to Lake of the Woods for a guided fishing trip today and Sunday through the national group, Hunters Helping Heroes, and Fish Addictions, a local organization that partnered with Cabela’s to host Friday’s ceremony.

Besides a $250 shopping spree to gear up for the fishing trip, each participant also received a full set of Cabela’s Guidewear-brand rain gear valued at more than $500.

Two other honorees, Sgt. Adam Hartswick, a double-leg amputee from Pine Grove Mills, Pa., and Kyle Balduf, a Nashville, Tenn., native living in Washington, D.C., also were scheduled to be on hand, but their flight into Grand Forks on Friday afternoon was delayed.

Balduf’s twin brother, Marine Sgt. Kevin Balduf, was killed in action in May 2011 in Afghanistan.

The pair was set to join the crew later Friday afternoon for the trip to Lake of the Woods.

“It’s really good to see people in uniform show up. It shows the camaraderie and the love that we share,” said Fair, a singer-songwriter who has performed on the CMT cable channel and whose song, “Fallen Soldier,” is a fundraiser for wounded veteran initiatives such as Operation Restored Warrior, Wounded Wear and the Wounded Warrior Project. “I don’t think I deserve it, but I’m extremely grateful.”

Melissa Jarboe, who founded a group called the Military Veteran Project to help other vets and to keep her husband’s memory alive, said the turnout was amazing.

“We knew we were bringing wounded warriors to this area, but I think all of us were speechless when they saw all the people outside,” she said. “That’s the kind of homecoming they don’t get anymore.”

Sarah Prout, retail marketing specialist for Cabela’s in East Grand Forks, said this is the third Hometown Heroes event she’s helped organize locally as a way to recognize the sacrifice and dedication of military personnel.

“It really is a big community effort and a way to thank these guys in the best way we can,” she said. “They definitely deserve it, and they’ve fought for our freedom we enjoy every day.”

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Brad Dokken
Brad Dokken is editor of the Herald's Northland Outdoors section and also works as a copy editor and page designer. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998. He also writes a blog called Compass Points. A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University. 
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