Courtesy Joe Bucher
Joe Bucher and guide Jerod Adamovich instruct WWIA veteran Allan Bowen on the basics of musky fishing.
Evan J. Pretzer/The Lakeland Times
Back at the cabin, WWIA guide Mark Broda, left, discusses the day on the water with WWIA participants, from left, Allan Bowen, Joe Leathers and Alan Daigle.
catching a musky
According to Outdoor Life
magazine, the musky is one of
the most difficult fish to catch.
So much so that it is
nicknamed the "fish
of 10,000 casts."
9/30/2017 7:29:00 AM still water
Wounded warriors relax in the Northwoods
By Evan J. Pretzer of the lakeland times
From Sept. 22-24, veterans of past and present conflicts in which the U.S. armed forces have played a role got together at the Eagle Waters Resort in Eagle River.
They were there to fish, and not to fight.
For the third time since 2015, the Florida-based 501(c)(3) Wounded Warriors in Action (WWIA) Foundation put on its "Muskie Chal-Lunge." Like other hunting and fishing events put on by the group previously - they've taken soldiers hunting and fishing in Texas, North Carolina and Maryland - this event in the Badger State invited select servicemen who had been wounded in combat to come have a nice weekend in a luxurious area.
For event director and Conover resident Scott Samuels, the program is a chance to rise above what he sometimes sees as a hollow thank you given by some members of the civilian population.
"We should be the first ones to step up and do something for our vets," Samuels said. "It is wonderful what the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars do, but we should be doing this stuff. Because we're the ones which benefit from their sacrifices."
Samuels believes there should be more to supporting veterans than just verbal support.
"When you say 'I support the troops,' what are you really doing?" he asked. "You wear a sweatshirt with the American flag on it, that's great, but what else do you do? People don't know what to say when questioned so I wanted to actually do something for them and we think this is the least we can do."
On the first day of each event, before even going out to hunt or fish with Wounded Warriors associates and volunteers, the warriors on each trip spend time getting to know each other. To foster the same bond former servicemen had while enlisted, groups are kept small. Past events have had as many as 10 Purple Heart recipients, while this weekend in late September had eight, with two being guides from the foundation.
The men played cards, swapped stories, inside jokes and learned a lot from one another. Sitting around a table in a secluded wooden cabin, their camaraderie bloomed.
"When we were in the lodgings earlier going over names and a lot of us ... we don't remember names," Pearland, Texas, resident Alan Daigle said. "So, I said I'm just going to call you all brother, because you're all brothers to me. It's great to be around these guys again because we can all relate to the same things, its good stuff." Daigle served 10 years in the Marine Corps and wound up on the trip after researching it online.
"I applied and, as they say, the rest is history," Daigle said.
On the water
On Saturday, the warriors rose from their slumber, walked down to the docks and - joined by syndicated fishing television show host Joe Bucher - set out to ensnare some muskies with their rods, lures and other bits of fishing equipment.
Not all were successful.
Of all the wounded warriors who went out, only half caught a fish. The musky eluded most, and, in the course of searching for it, cost Orlando resident and U.S. Army veteran Allan Bowen a rod worth $400.
"So, the day was pretty hectic for me because I'd never fished before and hadn't thought fishing could be so exciting," Bowen said. "I started off pretty poorly this morning (Sept. 23) and could see it on my guide's face. He told me to not worry and to just focus on my goal of catching a fish.
"I caught one and with the excitement of catching my first fish I must admit I didn't know what I was doing," he continued. "So, he (the guide) was trying to teach me and help me out with holding the fish and when he gave me his rod to hold I threw it away and didn't realize until later. I had to bow my head at what I'd done so it was a happy and sad time at once."
Bowen's guide wasn't fazed by the mistake. As all costs for the $10,000 weekend were fully funded by the Wounded Warriors in Action Foundation and Bucher's sponsors, the loss of one rod was not an issue.
The time after
After the drinks had been had, the reels cast and the waters of northern Wisconsin fully explored, those who served us got together one last time Sunday before going back to their separate lives across the county. Though they wouldn't be seeing each other any time soon, all were grateful for the experience had and the chance to do something not everyone is given.
"If not for my guide and WWIA, I wouldn't have gotten out of my box," Bowne said. "By getting us out of the depression box we're always trapped in after being wounded in the service, I got the weight taken off of my back. Being able to have somebody to listen to you and that understands what you went through, it means a lot."
"It's really therapeutic in a sense," Daigle said. "I usually cope more within myself, but being around WWIA and these guys, you immediately feel like family. It's been like that ever since I picked up the phone, truly."
If you're interested in donating to the Wounded Warriors in Action Foundation, volunteering, or applying for a trip, visit wwiaf.org to learn more.
Evan J. Pretzer may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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