Veterans get to run the river for free July 4th
Veterans got to raft for free down the Ocoee River this Fourth of July.
"I think it's very sweet and considerate and it's a fun thing to get everyone out on the water,” said raft guide Izzy Rivera.
Rivera was in the coast guard for three years before becoming a raft guide. She loves the water and made a good leader rafting down the rapids.
This Fourth of July she’s one of many veterans rafting the Ocoee River. Brett Barton was a sergeant in the Marine Corps. for four years and was in Rivera’s raft.
"I don't know I can't think of a better way to celebrate freedom than going down the river,” said Barton.
Veterans like Barton get to raft for free on the Fourth because of park manager of the Ocoee Hiwassee State Park Angelo Giansante.
"To have the backing of a lot of those outfitters who say hey, we would love to help those who have helped us it means a lot to me it's a really great way to say thank you,” said Giansante.
Giansante said the adrenaline rush that rafting provides is something a lot of veterans look for when they come home.
"It would be great to introduce the veterans to an adventure and when you get home after the war, life is sort of mellow, and you're looking for something to kind of get that adventure back,” said Giansante.
The Ocoee provided no shortage of excitement for these veterans today. Rivera was forced to go swimming when a tough rapid bounced her out of the boat.
A little later Barton took a leisurely float in a swimming area.
"It means a whole lot. Any support for our veterans or our active military it means a lot to all of us,” said Barton.
Every person left soaking wet and smiling ear to ear when it was time to get out.
Giansante said that last year they had about 150 veterans come through the river, this year they expect those numbers to be even greater.