I originally wrote this story for my company newsletter but the said it was to long and they only needed 300 words. I couldn't sum this experience up in 300 words and I felt a bit disappointed but my coworker suggested that I post it on the RAHF site and I couldn't agree more!
Recently the 7th Annual Reel American Heroes bass fishing tournament was held at Hope Springs Marina in Stafford, Virginia. The Reel American Heroes Foundation is a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit, All Volunteer Organization, founded in 2010 for the purpose of thanking our Wounded and Disabled Veterans from all service branches for the sacrifices they have made protecting our country, freedoms, and way of life. I was informed by a mutual friend and in turn, I extended an invitation to a couple of Skookum colleagues, Jay Aulabaugh and Cody Mattes. They are my in-company bass fishing rivals, but that's another story for later.
The day began with a 1:30 AM wake up call, a 2:30 am departure followed by a two-hour drive North on I-95 to the marina. I arrived early which was great because I got an excellent parking slot and it provided me a glimpse of the behind the scenes operations of which I found to be impressive. The volunteers were there in full force tents were erected, breakfast was being prepared, continuous registrations and the launching of their fellow volunteer's boats and parking their vehicles in the dead of darkness. The boat captains were all volunteers that ranged from the local area fisherman, BASS Master celebrities and anglers from out of state, some came as far away as Maine, New York, Delaware, Louisiana, and Florida to name a few.
I sat in my truck and observed all of this going on around me and started to feel something that I haven't felt in a while but I just couldn't put my finger on it. So I began to prep my gear as I awaited the crack of dawn which I found to be extremely beautiful this particular morning when it arrived. When daylight finally broke it brought along my tentative nemesis with it, at least until September arrives, then I'll set the record straight. Yes, it was Cody and Jay, they showed up with their jokes and torments from past accomplishments, oh yeah and their gear too! Without getting into too many details the story behind our rivalry revolves around a bass tournament held at Cheatham Naval Annex earlier this year in Yorktown, Virginia. I invited them along with other anglers in the company but they were the only ones to take an interest. So, when the tournament ensued Cody made it a point to upset me on the waters that I fish regularly and he and Jay somewhat accomplished their goal and I'll leave it at that for now! They took the first place and big fish award and I, notice I said "I" as in by myself, and took second place award. The last tournament was in a pond, but this tournament was held on the mighty Potomac River, which is an extremely large body of water that can overwhelm your senses.
Eating breakfast was the next order of business. A breakfast burrito made your own way was the main course. The ingredients were scrambled eggs, deep fried bacon, pork sausage and a flour tortilla. Yes, I said deep fried bacon! I stood there and watched as the chef peeled bacon strip after bacon strip from a large package and dropped each piece ever so gracefully into a pot full of hot bubbling vegetable oil. The end result was perfectly crisped deep fried bacon without much fat. Shortly after breakfast, the opening ceremony began with an ever so sharp Marine color guard and the singing of the national anthem by a young lady that was talented enough to sing acapella and delivered perfectly with a dash of goose bumps up the spine of anyone listening. Then the chaplain performed an invocation and respect was rendered to a fallen comrade. One last overview of the tournament rules and we were turned loose on the Potomac, we had six hours to catch five largemouth bass. The most weight wins the tournament.
The captain of my boat decided to run up the river for 30 minutes to visit a honey hole that we picked apart a week ago, but the fish had other plans. Only two hungry largemouth bass wanted to play with us, well with the captain at least. I caught two fish but they were the wrong type of fish. I caught a reasonable sized ringed perch and a large blue catfish. Both fish bit a lure designed for bass, I guess they wanted it more than the bass. The next few hours consisted of a frantic search for big bass in the heat of a very, very, hot day. Everything was fine until a co-angler encountered engine trouble that caused his engine to only idle. The captain and I rendered assistance by escorting them back to dock at a slow, slow idle. We had two hours left to fish, but we felt that it was more important to ensure that the other guys returned to the dock safely. It took every second of those two hours to return but we did it and no one was stranded on the water.
Upon returning we were greeted by none other than Cody himself, grinning like a chest cat talking mounds of trash, trying to get me worked up. He pulled my leg for a minute but he bombed out with zero bass to his credit. Their only fish tale was that they caught the notorious snake head fish, which is a non-native fish to American waterways. No one knows how it got here, but many anglers wish they never arrived due to the negative impact that it is having on the river ecosystem. After trading stories it was now time for lunch and what a lunch it was indeed. Corn on the cob, slaw, pulled BBQ smoked pork butts, macaroni and cheese and pork and beans. The food was excellent and reflective of the individuals that was providing service to us. The meet and greets continued as did that nagging feeling of familiarity.
Finally, after lunch Shaw Grigsby hosted the award ceremony and announced the top five teams that placed. Plaques and prizes were given out to the teams for their hard work and efforts. The event concluded with the raffle drawings, which I do believe Jay won a fishing jersey that will have his last name imprinted on the back as an additional gesture of gratitude by the RAHF organization.
In closing, starting with the beautiful early morning sunrise that gave way to the earnest hard working volunteers dropping large powerful machinery into the peaceful waters of the great Potomac River, and the preparation of a good old fashioned country breakfast on an open flame pit filling the air with wonderful smells that would make a grown man cry, to the culmination of a tough but yet first-rate bass tournament, I found this whole experience to be absolutely amazing and one of the best means of therapy! The admirable heart felt service that the volunteers rendered will forever be in the forefront of my mind. I understand the event was to show appreciation for veterans and without a doubt the goal was met ten times over. I am absolutely honored and humbled by the genuine unconditional love and selfless dedication that poured out of the hearts of the people involved with this organization. My hat is off to the RAHF and more so to the people who selflessly volunteered to drive it to a total success.
I finally remembered what that nagging feeling was that troubled me in a good way. That feeling is what veterans know as Esprit de corps which means the common spirit existing in the members of a group and inspiring enthusiasm, devotion, and strong regard for the honor of the group. On this day, past and present members of all branches of the United States military joined forces with local citizens and forged a rock solid bond as one, resulting in a hell of a good time on the Potomac River.
I attended the Reel American Hero's Fishing tournament in July 2017 for my second year in a row. Let me tell you these people go above and beyond to ensure we are taken care of. From the minute you arrive there is a sense of welcome, first by receiving welcomes from all the volunteers working the parking lot. After you park you are greeted by other volunteers that pile you down with food and a bunch free gear to ensure you are ready to go out and catch fish. After eating and receiving all the essential gear you get to meet your boating partner who (for both years that I have attended) is an outstanding person, doing everything in their power to ensure we are having a good time and attempting to put us on fish. After the fishing they feed you again, and lastly do some raffles and give away amazing prizes to the winning teams. This year I was lucky enough to win first prize and I walked away with a fully outfitted boat (I could not believe I won a boat:) ). It is unbelievable to imagine how kind and generous all the supporters of this foundation are. If I could give more than 5 stars I would, and I recommend it to all my veteran friends as a chance to get out and decompress on the water. Thank you to everyone who supports this event!
I am currently an active duty Marine stationed in Quantico, Virginia. Yesterday I had the opportunity to go on a Team Reel American Hero Foundation (RAHF) fishing trip with Brent and loved every minute of it. It may have not been the greatest day of fishing (for our boat), but we had a great time. Any day on the water fishing is better than a day on the couch. Before we venture out onto the water Brent gave me a Lew’s rod and reel with a tackle box full of fishing goodness. I was excited to simply go fishing, so I was absolutely speechless when I received the fishing gear.
I would like to take moment to thank RAHF, all of the sponsors that make the fishing trips happen, and to Brent for taking time out of his busy schedule to take me fishing. The volunteers and sponsors involved in the Reel American Heros Foundation are truly special. Thank you for everything you do!!!
RAHF is an amazing organization that I am proud to be a part of. Giving back to those who have sacrificed so much is something we are proud to do. To work with an organization that gives back over 90% of everything they take is rare and we are lucky to have found them.
Incredible ppl above reproach , genuine local help also , gifts giveaways an pro visits , they will make you feel loved that's for sure
I have ben able to be apart and be supported through this amazing organization for the past 2 years now and have found that their ability to help the veterans through the amazing sport of fishing weather it be getting wounded vets out on the water with one of their many volunteer boaters, providing the fishing equipment with the wonderful venders and small business owners who make their lures by hand, or to be there as a support to the families and veterans if they need any kind of help. The Reel American Heros Foundation has an amazing staff and volunteers backing our veterans and all for just the fact that they want to help out in anyway possible. I love being apart of this family. Thank you all for everything you do.
I'm lucky enough to have found my way into this foundation. The love, care and support that the REEL AMERICAN HEROS FOUNDATION shows the military members is awesome . As a veteran and volunteer I get great joy in traveling from Ohio to Virgina every year to meet up with friends and meet new civilian supporters and military members that find out about the organization. I truly haven't found a group of people that live and love the people they help like the people of this organization.
This organization is LIFE CHANGING and the people in charge are simply incredible. I was at a dark place in my life and was introduced to fishing and Reel American Heros Foundation and have never looked back. This program does magnificent work helping veterans back onto their feet and put them on the water. They don't just stop there, they provide the skills and equipment you will need to continue to fish. The old saying goes "Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man To Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime." RAHF not only fills your belly and teaches you skills necessary to fishing but on top of that fills your soul with a lifetime of friendships and support. You guys are truly amazing!!
RAHF is a great organization and with great people involved. They are willing to go above and beyond to give back and help our veterans. The experiences that I have had and the friendships I have made through this organization are life changing and everlasting. These guys are truly changing lives. The dedication and support of this organization to our country's veterans is beyond incredible.
The RAHF is a absolutely fantastic organization led by some of the kindest/selfless folks I have met. I have fished their major tournament 4 times, and consider it one of the best events held for wounded warriors. I have made great friends through this event that I regularly fish with and spend time with. As a wounded warrior I have had many opportunities to do different events and network with non-profits. RAHF is definitely one of the best!
Reel American Heroes Foundation is a fantastic organization that focuses on veterans getting the opportunity to recreational fish. I have attended 4 of their bass tournaments. They are second to none. The founder of RAHF is a patriot who has given his life to honoring veterans, he pores his heart into each and every event, while fighting cancer.
RAHF has far surpassed my expectations for helping and honoring our service members. I am a veteran myself. It makes me very proud to be associated to this foundation in a roll that provides recreational therapy to our men and woman that have served our great nation.
Reel American Heroes Foundation is the best organization that supports our troops and veterans. They provide an outlet for wounded soldiers to get back into the outdoors. My husband has been a volunteer with this organization for three years, and he will continue to support this organization. Honored to be a part of what they do.
RAHF helped me to rediscover my love for the outdoors and to reconnect with everyday people. I am thankful everyday for the opportunities they have opened my life up to.
When I first returned from my last deployment I had a very hard time reconnecting with people outside of my close family. I had always loved fishing and was invited to attend an event by Reel American Heroes Foundation. I found that not only was it a great reason to get out of the house, but also a way to relearn how to be normal again, if only for a short amount of time. I will always be thankful to the Reel American Heroes Foundation for allowing me the opportunity to get back some of what I had lost.
A great organization that truly sticks to their mission. So far I have been blessed to attend 2 events with plans to attend every year Im able. The volunteers make attending this event comfortable and enjoying which is very difficult for most all combat vets. The staff goes above and beyond to make an enjoyable day which doesn't happen to often for me personally. Experience has taught me most Vetrans organizations have other interest with the veterans being only a small part. Reel American Hero's has a solid reputation and proves the veterans recreation is first priority which makes this group first class. I'm already looking forward for this years event.
This is the best non-profit organizations out there who supports our troops and veterans. I am honored to speak on their behalf and will continue to support this great organization.
After my accident I wasn't sure I'd be on the water again but the guys at RAHF made it possible to enjoy one of my favorite pastimes with my boys again. Thank you to all the volunteers at RAHF for what you do and a shout out to Simon Curry for helping make this possible.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to go out fishing with one of the organizations guides. I had an amazing time and I hope all the veterans that are struggling to get out such as myself will take the opportunity to do this. The guide was very knowledgeable and went above and beyond to help me with what I didn't know. I would like to thank Allen Weatherford and all the people at RAHF that helped make this possible, may God Bless you all.
RAHF is a top notch organization that really goes the extra mile to get these veterans out in the outdoors and enjoying life!
This is a great organization that really puts forth the effort to try and make our veterans lives better! I can't think of a better way to show them the support that they deserve. I'm always amazed at all the things the RAHF does with the veterans and the events that they put on. Top notch all the way!
Not many girls out there on the water but I still felt right at home. The pro that donated his time was top notch and def did his research on how to be prepared for anxieties and other triggers. Every time I go out fishing or meet a fellow WW I tell them about this tournament.