BATTLE CREEK, Mich. –
Each year, approximately 30 boat captains donate a morning and take veterans out for a day of fishing on Lake Michigan. This year, the Aug. 22 event had me reflecting more than usual.
My husband has a love for fishing that started at a very young age. In fact, the first people to take him fishing were friends of his father who worked at the Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center. Army Gen. Henry Skeen taught my husband to fish, Army Col. Wiker and his son took my husband fishing often, and Col. R. A. Hamblin hooked him on his love for fishing on Lake Michigan. Skeen’s photo is right by my office, and it makes me smile each time I pass by.
The gift of that teaching comes full circle. For several years my husband has given back by participating in Trolling With The Troops. The annual day of free fishing trips for military veterans started in 2017. The event was organized locally by the Southwest Michigan Steelheaders Club with coordination from the American Legion Women’s Auxiliary.
This year’s event had 29 boats with 110 vets. My husband had four veterans on his boat. A friend of mine had contacted me asking how to go about getting a charter for her cousin, a veteran who recently underwent a leg amputation. I referred her to the TWTT website
and we made sure he was on our boat -- so my husband could help him reel in fish. Fishing on Lake Michigan had been on the veteran’s bucket list, and we are so glad to have been able to help with that.
I get very emotional when I see the vets who are so overcome with joy by being able to participate. While I do not go out on the boats, I still assist. In the past, my part has been to make snacks, hand out flags in St. Joe and encourage people to greet the boat parade of veterans as they return from fishing. I also assisted with the luncheon afterwards, clean up and anything else that needed to be done. This year was slightly different due to the restrictions. I was still able to make gifts for the veterans on our boat and assist where needed during and after the event. Despite the challenges, the event went on and we had a great turnout for the parade up the St. Joe River.