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Warriors eat for free
As Jim Barta ushered a group of wounded warriors into Barbara Jean's on St. Simons Island on Friday, he knew that offering them a free meal in solemn remembrance of their time served in the Armed Forces was more than just a kind gesture.

The restaurant at 214 Mallery St. quickly filled with some 65 wounded warriors - some retired and some still active but all Purple Heart recipients - and their families.

"It's the right thing to do," said Barta, co-owner of the family-run restaurant, who served 22 years in the Marines as commander of a fighter squadron before he was injured in Vietnam, earning him a Purple Heart. "These men and women have sacrificed for us and for our nation....(as well as) those who paid the (ultimate) price and gave their lives so we could be free.

"It's also for their families who have had to sacrifice time with their loved ones not knowing if dad or mom was coming home. It's a staggering experience."

Barbara Barta, co-owner of the restaurant and Jim Barta's wife, shared her husband's sentiments.

"These guys deserve it for what they've given up," Barbara Barta said. "I hope they understand how much the population needs their services and how we appreciate what they have given up to guarantee our freedom."

Hailing from Camp Lejuene, N.C., Fort Lewis, Wash., Fort Stewart, Hunter Army Airfield and the Georgia National Guard, all in Georgia, the Marines and soldiers are patients from Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Ranging in age from early 20s to the early 40s, they were bused to the Golden Isles to be guests at the McGladrey Classic PGA Tour tournament on St. Simons Island, which concludes Sunday.

It is the second consecutive year the restaurant has provided free meals for wounded warriors.

Joseph Moore, an Army veteran and one of the recipients of the meals, was overjoyed by the show of support.

"You hear a lot about how people don't support the military, so when a community comes together and shows support it means a lot to us. Even if it's only two people out of 500, that support means so much," said Moore, who served three years in the National Guard and has been active in the Army for nine years.

Army veteran A.J. Mungia, who serves in the 4th Infantry Brigade, agrees.

"Back home, they don't show much support, so when you come to a place that does, it just shows us how much people still care about and appreciate the warriors. It's just awesome," Mungia said of his 28 months in service.

For Army veteran Nathan Shurter, it feels like home.

"I'm from Georgia so the hospitality is nothing new to me, but having the community's support and the support of others everywhere means a lot to us," said Shurter, who has served in the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, 1-38 Infantry Regiment for the past five years.

* Reporter Brittany Tate writes about lifestyle topics. Contact her at, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 317.

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Motorcycle riders are asked to meet at Lanier Plaza, 1919 Glynn Ave., Brunswick, at 9 a.m. today to escort the wounded warriors from Walter Reed Medical Center and their families and medical support staff to St. Simons Island at 9:30 a.m.

Residents and visitors in red, white and blue are asked to line the F.J. Torras Causeway by 9:30 a.m. beginning near the old toll booth, as well as along King's Way and up to the foot of McKinnon St. Simons Airport, to welcome the wounded warriors and show their patriotic spirit with banners, balloons and flags.

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