Since 2011 the members of the Smith Mountain Stripers Club (SMSC) of Moneta, Virginia, has graciously donated fishing excursions to Freedom Alliance for the enjoyment of injured combat veterans. For the fourth annual spring trip to Smith Mountain Lake, the SMSC offered to escort the troops for two consecutive days on the water.
Sarah is a former Recovery Care Coordinator at Camp Lejeune, which means she located resources to help wounded Marines overcome challenges. During her time at Camp Lejeune, Sarah remembers Freedom Alliance as being there immediately to meet the needs of the Marines in her care.
To help us put together this year’s Smith Mountain Lake getaway, Sarah went all out to raise support in the Lynchburg/Bedford Country area. Along with the American Legion of Lynchburg, Virginia, and David Stokes of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Sarah presented Freedom Alliance with a sizable amount of money to put toward the fishing retreat.
Over and above the funds, Sarah connected us to Lake Retreat Properties, which donated the lodging: a lakefront house on five acres, called “Glendalough.” Glendalough features 11 beds, recreation room, and outdoor hot tub, and the property is surrounded by water on three sides. (Bedding and towels were donated by Lake Linen Service.)
We welcomed nine war fighters to the lake house on Wednesday evening, all of which had been injured in Iraq or Afghanistan. Six were active-duty Marines from the Wounded Warrior Battalion at Camp Lejeune. The three others, twice deployed overseas, had been medically retired sometime in the last two years.
Before dawn the next morning, we drove to the Virginia Dare Marina in Huddleston, where the SMSC members waited with five boats.
When asked about his previous fishing experience, Zion, a wounded Marine, answered, “I’m from Arizona”—anything the landlocked veteran caught that day would be his personal best, he said, since it was his first time fishing for striped bass. He did indeed catch that first striper and more, as did the other anglers.
Once back at Glendalough, the men either headed to their beds for a pre-dinner nap or hit the docks in the yard for more fishing.
Friday morning was a repeat of the previous day, as we met the boat captains at the marina and set off to find the stripers. The catch was great and just in time before the storm clouds rolled in. This time, the SMSC boaters dropped the troops off at Glendlough’s docks to clean the fish.
Dinner that night was at Jake’s Place, a waterfront establishment in Moneta. The SMSC members and volunteers joined us to tell fish stories over the meal and recognize their military “first mates” for their service to our country.
Sorry to leave Glendalough’s indulgence and Smith Mountain Lake’s beauty and abundance, we all packed up Saturday morning, dividing the fish fillets to take home.
“You can’t know how great this trip was for me. I really needed this,” said Parker, a Wounded Warrior from Camp Lejeune. Matt, also a Marine, said, “I’m looking forward to more trips with you all.”