That’s the summarizing statement of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Park Ranger, Russell Curtis at Caesar Creek Lake, Ohio. Curtis coordinated the park’s "Take a Warrior Fishing" event May 17 at the lake. The C.A.S.T. Foundation’s "Take a Warrior Fishing" is designed to honor veterans and give them an opportunity to get out on the lake and learn the fine art of fly-fishing, a sport well known for its ability to relax body and mind.
This is the second year Caesar Creek Lake has sponsored the event, which drew 90 veterans and 42 family members who took advantage of free boat rides and fishing instruction.
Veterans from the Korean and Vietnam wars, Desert Storm, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan participated and were given fishing poles and tackle boxes. A hot lunch—courtesy of the Golden Lamb restaurant in Lebanon, Ohio, and J.T.M Food Group—and live music added to the event.
Project Healing Waters, an organization founded to help returning veterans make a smooth transition from combat to civilian life, was a key sponsor and participant.
Jim Owens, of Renton, Washington, founder and executive director of Take a Warrior Fishing, flew in for the Caesar Creek Lake event.
"I grew up in the Vietnam era, and I saw what happened to our vets," said Owens. "My son-in-law is an Army Ranger who has been in Afghanistan nine times. I wanted to do something for these veterans coming back to help them make the transition. I wanted to introduce these folks to fishing because I think it can be therapeutic."
Owens said that after another event, one of the soldiers told him, "‘The only time I feel sane anymore is when I’m fishing.’
"This is something families can do together; it opens up a whole new door for them," Owens said.
May 17 dawned overcast, rainy and cold, but spirits remained high among volunteers and participants.
Robert H. "Bob" Brown of Columbus, Ohio, an Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam, said he heard about the event through Project Healing Waters. "I haven’t caught a fish yet, but I still like it. I would recommend this to anyone, veteran or non-veteran. It’s a great atmosphere."
"The event itself is special," said Joseph Dunlap, a Navy veteran of Columbus, Ohio.
Cincinnati and Dayton offices of Veterans Affairs, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Warren County Veterans Services, Red Cross, Northrop-Grumman, Lebanon Ford and Walmart also contributed to the event through sponsorships.
"It’s a therapeutic experience," said Elizabeth "Beth" Snow, a registered nurse with Cincinnati Veterans Affairs, who was at the event.
Both Steven Lee, USACE operations manager for the Miami River Area, and Chris Rapenchuk, USACE park manager at Caesar Creek Lake, worked Take a Warrior Fishing because of its popularity and importance to veterans and staff alike, many of whom are military veterans.
Perhaps the most telling comment of the day was e-mailed to Curtis by a veteran and participant. "I just want to thank you for giving up your time along with all the others who made our day so enjoyable. Even though it was cold and rainy, I had a good time. Thank you for making this old Soldier very happy."
And that’s exactly why those at Caesar Creek Lake have decided to sponsor the event again next year, though a date has not yet been set.