For the third year, and still growing, the Walleyes for Wounded Heroes came to fish in our Great Lake, Lake Erie. The Walleyes for Wounded Heroes is an extension of the Kentucky Wounded Heroes organization. The program offers Kentucky’s uniform members of the United States Armed Forces, law enforcement officers, fire fighters and emergency medical responders who have been injured in the line of duty, the opportunity to fish, relax and enjoy the natural healing resources that Lake Erie has to offer.
The Kentucky Wounded Heroes travel many places throughout the United States to participate in outdoor activities, but in the summer, they choose to fish in Lake Erie.
“Three years ago we were asked to help get the warriors on the lake to fish. After that, we wanted to further the cause and make it bigger and better,” said co-coordinator Joe Hein. Hein and Joe Stelzer are co-coordinators of the Walleyes for Wounded Heroes organization.
Hein said that the first year the warriors came to the area there were 17, the second year there were 35. This year, there were 58 Wounded Heroes that came to the event on the North Coast. The event spanned Wednesday through Saturday.
Our area’s lending hand
On Wednesday the Wounded Heroes went to Magee East Marina and had a dinner and meet and greet after returning to the mainland. On Thursday, they visited Rob’s Limestone Tavern. Friday the heroes went to Put-in-Bay. TJ’s Smokehouse provided dinner on Friday night. Saturday a reception was held at Tall Timbers campground for the Wounded Heroes. The reception included a police and fire escort to the campground and an opening ceremony performed by the Color Guard with the Sea Cadets and members of the Port Clinton Soccer Boosters participating. Tall Timbers youth group also helped with the ceremony. The event at Tall Timbers, which included a fish fry, was attended by over 250 people.
“We are glad to make Port Clinton a home for this project,” said Hein. “We would like to thank the Ottawa County Commissioners that helped with the event, especially Jim Sass, we would like to thank Facility Manager Jim Adkins, Sara Toris of the Ottawa County Veterans Services and Kara Hart of Lake Erie Shores and Islands.”
Hightower and the Bardstown 6
An amazing story unfolded while at the campground, a group of men, Vietnam veterans, had signed up for the National Guard at the same time, graduated from the same high school and were deployed to Vietnam together. They still live near each other and attend the Kentucky Wounded Warriors events together. The six friends are all from the Bardstown, Kentucky area.
“Chuck (Reed, director of the Kentucky Wounded Heroes organization) three or four years ago explained the program to us and we have never been on this type of trip. Two or three of us really like to fish and the other three were willing to try so we decided to make the trip. We’ve had a great time,” said James L. Ice, one of the Bardstown 6.
“We get to meet people in other branches of service and share stories. It’s a great cross section of stories,” said Tom Raisor, also of the Bardstown 6. “It’s great to see the advances they have in the military with equipment, safety and the best is to see the reception of the veterans when they return home. We may be all from different branches and services, but we can all relate to each other.”
Brett Hightower was injured in Afghanistan in 2008. Reed invited Hightower on an Alaskan fishing trip with the Wounded Heroes and ever since, Hightower has wanted to do what he could to promote and further the program.
“I love to support anything to bring service people together for comradery,” said Hightower. “The trips are geared towards the outdoors where a natural healing can take place. We can bring together the people, help them decompress, relax, meet one another and then they can share their experiences. This helps the people create friends that can relate to what they are going through.”
For more information about the Kentucky Wounded Heroes project visit bretthightower.wix.com/kentucky-wounded-heroes or call 502-235-4262.