Boats prepare to take off for the 2019 Vets and Guides Event on Lake Tomahawk. Eighteen guides took 52 veterans out fishing Aug. 7.
8/17/2019 7:30:00 AM 2019 Vets and Guides Event a huge success 52 veterans and over 70 volunteers participated
Jacob Friede Of the Lakeland Times
An eagle perched in a tree overhead as veterans arrived for the 2019 Vets and Guides Event Aug. 7 in Lake Tomahawk. That living symbol of our country's freedoms set the tone for a day honoring the men and women who served to protect them.
And in typical Northwoods fashion, appreciation for their service was shown with a day of fishing.
The Vets and Guides Event, which began in the 1990s but was put on hold for various reasons, is in it's second year of reemergence. The event pairs veterans and fishing guides for a day out on Lake Tomahawk. This year 18 guides participated and took 52 veterans fishing.
Many local veterans participated as well as other veterans from around the state, including some from the Veterans Home in King and the VA Medical Center in Tomah, who were staying at Camp American Legion.
"It's just a little thing on our end to thank them for the big things that they've done for us," said Don Myers, one of the primary organizers of the event.
The day started with veterans arriving at the Lake Tomahawk park pavilion, greeted by the honor guard from American Legion Post 318 from Lake Tomahawk.
"Special thanks to them," Myers said in reference to the honor guard. "They do a wonderful job for us when we do this."
After that the veterans were assigned to boats and guides and they hit the water for a morning of fishing, and according to Myers, it was a real treat for many.
"Some of these folks haven't been on the water literally in decades and some of them have never been fishing in their life," he said.
The guides made sure the time on the water was productive.
"We did catch some fish during the event," Myers said. "We got a couple walleyes. We got bass. We got lots of panfish. And of course it's catch and release."
Besides the good fishing, veterans were also treated to the fellowship which accompanies a day out on the water.
"You've got three or four guys and gals on a pontoon boat and so they can enjoy each other's company," Myers said.
When they were done fishing, the veterans and guides returned to the Lake Tomahawk park pavilion where they were treated to a shore lunch prepared by Wes Harmon from the Brick restaurant in Rhinelander.
"Other volunteers man the kitchen," Myers said. "It's a huge team effort. I'm really honored to have these people as my team. We're all team members and the guys and the gals that participate do a great job."
In addition to the 18 guides, Myers' team consisted of 60 other volunteers whose hard work made the event possible, as did the support of the people in the town of Lake Tomahawk
"All the businesses in Lake Tomahawk stood up and helped us make this thing come together," Myers said. "Not only the owners of the businesses, but also many of the employees and they helped us through the planning stage all the way through our meetings and donated their facilities. That little town is very special. These folks are just outstanding. I'm proud to be affiliated with these folks."
During the closing ceremonies a powder coated aluminum bench, with the emblems of all four branches of the military laser-etched into it, was donated to Camp American Legion. The donation came from Glenn Pupp, CEO of Aluminum Fabricated Products in Rothschild, who also participated in the event as a guide and boat driver.
"It's a beautiful, beautiful bench," Myers said. "And it was just another highlight of the day."
Based on the numbersof participants, the 2019 Vets and Guides Event was a huge success, but that was also confirmed by the reaction of veterans like Ronald Wrobleski, a retired Army veteran who, along with his wife Jean, is currently with the Air Force's Civil Air Patrol (CAP). Wrobleski, also a retired physician, is a major in the CAP.
"It was a very enlightening day. A very relaxing day," Wrobleski said. "I enjoyed the guides. Boat was outstanding. My wife and I both enjoyed it. We caught fish. I caught a nice little bluegill, eight and a quarter inch, and I really had a good time."
Wrobleski had such a good time, he definitely plans on returning to the Northwoods next year.
"It was my first time doing Camp American Legion," he said. "I will be doing it again in the future. Hopefully yearly."
Wrobleski, a legionnaire himself, was quite impressed by the hard work put into the event by the organizers and had nothing but praise for the honor guard and the local American Legion Post 318.
"The Lake Tomahawk Legion Post was outstanding with their meal, with their personnel," he said. "It was a very patriotic and dedicating day for a veteran. That is not something easy to put on. The Lake Tomahawk Post was very outstanding with their honor guard and being as I was at one time walking through the honor guard first, I felt proud to salute them, and that's how it should be done."
As for Myers and his team, he said they were more than happy to put in the work to say thank you and treat the veterans to a nice day in the Northwoods.
"It's just all around a positive thing and for us that participate in it, we're the beneficiaries of it in terms of being honored to show our respects."
Jacob Friede may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or outdoors@
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