For centuries, people have turned to this activity to achieve tranquility, enjoy camaraderie and decrease stress. No, not yoga. We’re talking about fishing.
It’s little wonder, then, that a new generation of veterans finds the activity to be therapeutic. As a result, organizations are springing up across the country to promote fishing among our nation’s heroes.
Take A Soldier Fishing organizes group fishing expeditions and offers civilians a chance to let military members and veterans know how much they are appreciated by treating them to a day where the only stress is whether or not the fish are biting. Currently, there are chapters in Oregon, Florida, Texas and New York. Prospective volunteers, as well as veterans who’d like to fish, can sign up via an online form.
And in Maine, veteran fishing clubs are proliferating, with the new organization Back in the Maine Stream joining two others already in existence. Disabled Air Force vet Marc Bilodeu and Vietnam Marine Corps soldier Bob Pelletier founded the club with the goal of coordinating fishing expeditions among disabled service members. Their inspiration? Project Healing Waters, a national organization that plans fly fishing trips for active military personnel and veterans.
Before a fishing trip six years ago, Bilodeu told Deirdre Fleming of the Portland Press Herald, “I had been very discouraged. I couldn’t fish because of my disability. They dragged me out on a rock, put a fly rod in my hand. I was kind of miserable. It took me an hour to catch a 3-inch bass. Then it was so emotional, I cried like a baby. And I realized, I was back, and who was gonna stop me now?”
The problem was that Project Healing Waters only came to Maine once a year, so Pelletier and Bilodeu started Back in the Main Stream.
During the fishing trips, Pelletier told Fleming, “Marc and I rag on each other a lot. We can. We had one veteran who lost his hands. When he came out of the washroom I said, ‘You wash your hands?’ He goes, ‘Yup.’ But he hasn’t any. He knows where I’ve been. I know where he’s been. It’s really hard to explain to people who haven’t been in the military. They don’t understand. But I know the sacrifices he made.”