Saturday, Sept. 10, Hooked on Vets, in cooperation with the Missouri Department of Conservation, put on an event called Veterans Free Fishing Extravaganza. At this event, we fed around 100 veterans as well as provided each veteran with a door prize ranging anywhere from a fishing pole to a hat. We also had a few raffles to raise money for our not-for-profit organization, Hooked on Vets, to help provide assistance for veterans in need.
During this event, we also provided veterans with the opportunity to speak with the Missouri Veterans Commission and offered fellow veterans the opportunity to share information to help them with any needs they had. This process included taking these men and ladies to the river to catch trout, rather that was on the fly or baits.
The consensus was that we are very thankful and happy with us being able to put on an event that was solely there to help them. We had guides take each of the veterans on the river and either helped them catch fish or even taught them how to fly fish if they so desired. Fly fishing is something that I have used to help other veterans get past some issues.
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Fly fishing is one of the oldest forms of fishing that goes back as far as recorded records in the Bible. It was taught by a nun a long time ago. She even wrote a book, but it was not recognized until years later when it was plagiarized by a gentleman almost word for word. I guess that’s enough for a history lesson.
The Current River and Montauk State Park is a premier fishing location in the state of Missouri. You can go down to the river or to the park and have the opportunity to catch trout, smallmouth bass, and even huge pickerel. My family has been fishing in this park and river for the last 40 years or so. Time on the river and in the park can be very healing, both physically and emotionally. When you drop down in the park, it seems like you lose yourself, like you can wash all your pains and sorrows away.
What I saw at this event was the healing powers of the gin-clear waters of the Ozarks and the fellowship of fellow veterans helping each other. Whether it was just to fish or to chat about the weather, it was a time of great excitement and enjoyment.
We had donations from a wide variety of businesses — even some local ones. CRS Restoration of Farmington donated and cooked food. Big River Home Inspection donated dessert and delivered it. Both of these companies deserve the lion’s share of the appreciation because, without generous folks like them, these events would never be successful.
Helping veterans is something that I am very passionate about. There is an average of 22 veterans that commit suicide every 24 hours. That is a staggering number, and there is not one good reason for it to be that high. We gave our daughters a history lesson last week on the 21st anniversary of Sept. 11, 2021. We showed them a video of the attacks that took place on Sept. 11, 2001. They learned from me, with tears in my eyes, about what happened that day and why we spent our day helping these veterans. All I could say was that we owe them everything. We owe our veterans for every second of freedom that we receive.
The outdoors is a healing place for everyone. Whether it be veterans, children or just everyday folks. Take the time to share your passion. If fishing isn’t your passion, just be nice to your neighbor. You never know whose life you might save by just saying “hello.”