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This week's Feature Blog

The Healing Waters....

They say in war all give some and some give all. The annual Walleyes For Wounded Heroes event that takes place out of Little Ted’s Cottages near Port Clinton, Ohio is made up of military, police, fire fighters and first responder veterans who have served their country honorably. These brave men and women not only served, but they were also wounded or injured in the line of duty.

Walleye For Wounded Heroes brings Military, police, fire and EMT veterans together with volunteer “Captains" who make it possible to get these men and women on the water to experience what Lake Erie is famous for.

Seven years ago event coordinators Joe Steltzer and Ferd Lohman pulled together the first Walleyes For Wounded Heroes event with a handful of veterans and local charter captains who volunteered their time to take the “vets” fishing. In 2018, the most recent event, attracted 97 military veterans, plus 7 police, fire and EMT personnel along with dozens of volunteers from all walks of life. Besides growing 10 fold in size, the WFWH event has moved selfless volunteers to spend a weekend every June honoring the men and women who serve this great country.

“On the surface the Walleyes For Wounded Heroes event is about taking some deserving folks walleye fishing on Lake Erie,” says event coordinator Ferd Lohman, a military veteran himself. “Behind the scenes this event is an opportunity for these men and women to share their experience with others who understand and appreciate the sacrifices of war and also public service as a police officer, fire fighter or emergency medical technician.”

Fishing has a natural way of being therapeutic. In the case of Walleyes For Wounded Heroes, the time on the water helps these individuals heal not just from their physical injuries, but also from the war that continues to rage on in their minds.

War has always taken a toll on the men and women who fight, but the strain of war has gotten worse not better over time. During World War II the average veteran spent about 10 days in actual combat. During the Vietnam War far less veterans served which means those who did serve often spent as much as a year in combat! Many of these individuals signed on for two or even three tours of duty.

In our modern “all volunteer” military less than 2% of Americans serve. The cumulative impact of being in harms way day after day, week after week and year after year takes a toll on these individuals. In many cases dealing with the effects of war or the street violence police, fire and EMT staff face takes the rest of their lives.

Friendships formed at outreach events like Walleyes For Wounded Heroes help us better understand our veterans and the issues they face on and off the battle field.

Walleyes For Wounded Heroes is made up of two amazing groups of people. The veterans, police, fire and EMT personnel are the reason this annual event is so important. The dozens of modest individuals who volunteer their time, money and hearts is the reason the event continues to flourish.

Many of Lake Erie’s finest Charter Captains donate their time, boats, staff and resources in an effort to insure the heroes of WFWH enjoy three days of stress-free fishing. Not only are these Captains giving up income at a prime time of year, they are covering all the expenses associated with charter fishing. Many volunteer Captains travel from outside the region, pay for their own lodging, gasoline, tackle and other expenses just to lend a helping hand for a deserving cause.

Vietnam Veteran and Purple Heart Recipient Dave Callahan (right) poses with Boat Captains Jake Romanack (center) and Eric Hirzel at the opening night “fish fry” made possible thanks to Captain Eric Hirzel of Erie Gold Walleye Charters.

The fish that are caught during the event (approximately 1500 walleye during the 2018 event) are processed and sent home with the Walleyes for Wounded Heroes so they can relive the fishing experience at home with loved ones and family friends. Pulling off an event of this size costs money, lots of money.

Funds from private donations and also from non-profit military groups such as Kentucky Wounded Heroes help make these kinds of outreach programs possible. Chuck Reed is the Director of Kentucky Wounded Heroes and personally attends the June Walleye for Wounded Heroes event on Lake Erie.

In Chuck’s eyes leading through example is the best way to inspire those who have served to sign up and participate in the Walleye For Wounded Heroes event. Kentucky Wounded Heroes also sponsors many other outdoor events scheduled throughout the year and in all corners of this great nation.

Every one of these events honors America and the very people who make this country great. Events start with the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem. They thank God by insisting on Grace at every meal and everyone is encouraged to participate “on and off the water” regardless of their race, age or physical limitations.

Veterans form a brotherhood of arms. Most of us will never fully understand what this brotherhood means and why it is critical to our fighting men and women. I consider myself lucky and honored to be included in this unique brotherhood for one weekend every June.

Links to Walleyes For Wounded Walleye and also Kentucky Wounded Heroes. Also links to Fishing 411 TV episodes focusing on Walleyes for Wounded Heroes.

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