Army veteran, Backwater BBQ owner Wayne Wommack uses business, life to make a difference in the lives of others


By Morgan Bryce

Growing up on a 3,000-acre family farm in Tennille, Georgia, Backwater BBQ owner Wayne Wommack was perfectly content with his future as a farmer.
Uncle Sam had other plans. In 1970, shortly after graduating from Washington Road High School in nearby Sandersville, he was drafted into service by the U.S. Army to serve in the Vietnam War.
“I went and took basic training at Fort Benning. But I had no intention to be a soldier,” Wommack said. “Then, a senior drill sergeant told a bunch of us one Saturday that if we wanted out, that he would get us out. But, you’re going with a bad conduct discharge.”
After weighing his options briefly and considering his family’s rich tradition of military service, Wommack decided to stay and do what he needed to become a soldier.
Following completion of his basic training and Airborne School instruction at Fort Benning, Wommack was shipped to Fort Sam Houston in Texas for Ranger School. Later, he went to Fort Bragg in North Carolina where be received his commendation as a Green Beret.
Wommack received extra training before being deployed to Vietnam as a special forces medic.
In total, Wommack would serve 13 years before leaving the U.S. Army with a final rank of E-6.
While there were many positive memories and lasting friendships made during his time in the military along with overall good health, Wommack said many of his scars from serving in combat are internal.
“Mentally, many of us never come home. Your eyes won’t unsee what you see, and you can’t unhear or unsmell what you smelled in combat,” Wommack said.
Construction was Wommack’s next career path, working from 1983 to 2009 on projects along the East Coast before relocating to the Columbus-Phenix City area in 2009.
Five years later, Wommack and a friend went into business together to open Backwater BBQ near Lake Harding.
Backwater is now solely owned and operated by Wommack and his “significant other” Judy.
Wommack said he taps into his competition-circuit experience and appreciation of cooking and smoking styles found back in his hometown to create an unforgettable dining experience for customers.
“Unlike a whole bunch of the barbecue restaurants that are in Lee, Russell and Muscogee counties, we don’t have corporate (or company) guidelines, and we’re able to create or make what our customers want,” Wommack said. “We do nothing ordinary here. Day in and day out, when we do caterings, we always put our mark on it. I don’t give a damn about a lot of things in this world, but I want to do things right, and I want to treat our customers right.”
Wommack uses Backwater to benefit local special needs and veterans organizations, often providing steep discounts to those groups of people who are close to his heart.
“I believe that if you do good to others, it’ll come back to you sooner or later,” Wommack said.
In addition to his busy life as a restaurateur, Wommack said he continues to live as a soldier by looking out for his fellow veterans by maintaining frequent or almost daily contact with some of them to help combat the onset of depression or isolation. In his situation, he said his 4-year-old dog Callie helps him through some of his daily struggles.
“On average, 22 to 23 veterans die every day. I’ll sometimes call, sometimes text them, and if I don’t get an answer, I’ll go beat on their door because I don’t want them to become part of that statistic,” Wommack said. “Those personal demons are real, and I want to be in that fight with them. And if I can’t, I want them to know that they don’t need to quit and that they shouldn’t feel like giving up.”
Wommack said his life has been fulfilling. He has two daughters, Alyse and Suzann, and six grandchildren between them, all ranging in age from 2 to 11 years old.
“God has been good to me. He’s blessed me more than I was worthy of, because I always haven’t been a good person,” Wommack said. “There were times in my life when I didn’t like myself, but today, I’m a different person. And I’m really, really thankful for that.”
Backwater’s hours of operations vary, but it is always closed on Mondays. For more information or to learn more about their menu, call 706-681-4661. The restaurant is located at 992 Lee Road 334 in Salem.


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