It was the fifth fishing event Freedom Alliance designed with the help of the Smith Mountain Striper Club (SMSC). This team of anglers considers it an honor to invite combat veterans to their fishing turf for a four-day getaway on the water. Many others join them to make this vacation top-quality.
Seven Marines and one Soldier made the trip this year to southwestern Virginia. They arrived to find a splendid three-story lakefront home open for their use, donated by Lake Retreat Rental Properties. “Glendalough,” as the property is named, sits on five private acres, surrounded on three sides by water, and sports two docks.
For two full days, the fellows manned boats to reel in the area’s prize catch—the striped bass, known as stripers and rockfish. This is a freshwater version that is specially stocked at Smith Mountain Lake.
In one day, one boat caught more than 20 stripers, as well as some bass and catfish. At the end of each fishing day, some of the vets with body aches took advantage of Glendalough’s hot tub, while others hit the docks with their fishing rods.
The fishing was punctuated by wonderful meals: there was one casual dinner at the lake house, and other meals at local restaurants, such as the one at Mitchell’s Marina and Jake’s Place on the northern shores.
Included among our guests were two Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians; these are the guys who put their lives at risk to dismantle the roadside bombs which are set to kill our service members. Another EOD tech drove from the Marine Corps base at Quantico on the last evening to spend some time with his buddies.
We had other vets, who fought in Fallujah and Ramadi, and other sites in Iraq and Afghanistan. They endure traumatic brain injuries, intense pain and stress, as well as other damage, as a result of combat. These injuries lead to surgeries and years of medical treatment and rehabilitation.
For hosting our friends of the armed forces, we owe much gratitude to the members of the SMSC; the boat captains; photographer Bob Rowe; and others, like Lake Linen Service, who contributed so that the men could be lodged comfortably.
Josh, Marine Corps veteran of 19 years, with eight deployments, joined us from Portland, Oregon. He has participated in Freedom Alliance events before and said he couldn’t stop smiling by the end of the four days at Smith Mountain Lake.
“This trip is like hitting a reset button on my life—[it] allows me to clear out the past and have a fresh start at a new day. At the beginning of the trip, you don’t know anyone, but . . . by the end of the trip you are hugging each other like you’ve known them your entire life.”
That is exactly the kind of reaction we want to foster when we provide these events—entertainment mixed with downtime and deep personal connections.
To our eight special guests and the SMSC, here’s to another grand year of fishing!