Texas Part Deux: Heroes on the Water

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I usually don’t have a big problem with deadlines. In fact, I actually pride myself on the ability to “get it done” in a timely fashion. However, with this blog entry I have done the old Stop n Go like a UPS truck at Christmas time. The hiccups and false starts are not a matter of motivation. Rather, I have found the subject matter exceedingly difficult to condense and quantify while giving the topic the respect and gravity it deserves. This is a fishing blog. This is a movie blog. This is a blog about kayaks… But, the second half of the Texas trip for Kayak Fishing:  Game On 2 was so much more than that.

The GO2 crew was invited to come help take injured veterans of the US Armed Forces kayak fishing. When you are asked to help veterans individual politics are put away. Whatever your thoughts on war, peace, and government might be, there is no place for politics in helping the young adults who serve their country. Everyone involved with Game On 2 was honored to have the opportunity to participate in taking wounded Iraqi war vets kayak fishing for a few days.

The event in Vanderbilt was facilitated and organized by Heroes on the Water:
http://www.kayakanglerssa.org/clubs/HeroesontheWater/tabid/115/Default.aspx

The Game On crew drove down from Galveston to Vanderbilt to find winds at 25 knots and a forecast for increasing winds throughout the weekend. Not ideal conditions to put folks in kayaks for the very first time, but we’d make due. The Soldiers were bused in from San Antonio, and a slew of Who’s Who in kayaking had gathered at the Ranch of Will Manske’s family to entertain these veterans for a few days.

Let me state this clearly; the fishing sucked. It was terrible, the weather was terrible, and the water levels were terrible. But, the experience, opportunity, and the soldiers we took fishing were utterly fantastic. We all lamented the horrible conditions and the fact that getting good kayak-fishing footage was gonna be next to impossible, but everyone realized quickly that the focus was on entertaining the soldiers and making some new friends. The other stuff quickly became secondary.

Note: No names of the soldiers participating are included at the request of the commanding officer.

We met some of Americas finest over those few wind-blown days. While we were mostly relegated to helping soldiers fish from the banks we did get the veterans into kayaks in small protected waters. Most importantly we were able to put smiles on some faces and make the veterans feel like part of the gang.
It was evident that these soldiers were enjoying themselves, while all the professional kayakers aided and abetted the fun in any way they could. Only a few fish were landed, but tons of laughs, and friends were netted on the banks of the Lavaca bay marsh.

On the second night we turned on the fishing lights and hit the Lavaca River with some of the soldiers. Trout started popping bait under the lights and soon everyone was getting a tug on their line. As the fish started coming to hand, a classic Texas fishing tradition started: the good old’ Fishing/Pissing contest. Every time one of the soldiers caught a fish they clamored and bragged to their buds.

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One of America's finest. Photo by K. Larson

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Longhorn being interviewed by Jim. Photo by K. Larosn

One soldier, who we’ll call “Longhorn” (the young man loved all things associated with Texas University) may be the best smack talker I have ever seen. He delighted in catching multiple trout while I “the pro” was trying to hook up a fish. A relentless barrage of smack talk was unleashed in that good natured competition that happens on docks and piers. It was truly priceless entertainment. And I like to believe everyone there forgot every care and concern in the world, for a few minutes anyway. Longhorn and the other soldiers were having a blast. One particular comment stands out in my mind. Just as a good fish was caught by Longhorn he opined: “Who needs therapy when you can fish?” His buddy laughed and quickly responded: “Hell yeah! F**k Prozac! Go fishing!”

Indeed.

An enormous amount of thanks needs to be expressed to Will Manske and his family for their hospitality and graciousness in hosting the event. Likewise, a huge “gracias” to Jim Dolan, his wife, Danny Paschal and Kendall Larson from Heroes on the Water. All the guys at HOW should be recognized for their efforts in putting this event together and their continued endeavors to help veterans.

The host with the most... Will Manske. Photo by K Larson

The host with the most... Will Manske. Photo by K Larson

Jim helping a soldier. Photo by K Larson

Jim helping a soldier. Photo by K Larson

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