Event brings Big Salmon, Big Smiles to Veterans
By Gary Hansen, Regional Chair
In August, a flotilla of 70 volunteer sportfishing boats with captain and crew on each guided 146 wounded warriors on a one-day fishing adventure in Puget Sound. Called Salmon for Soldiers, it is timed to coincide with the beginning of the pink salmon run, but the veterans and guests caught king salmon as well.
The event was the brainchild of Randy Shelton and Prince of Wales Owner/Guide and ESPN “The Outdoor Line” Radio Talk Show co-host Rob Endsley. Along with Randy’s wife Penny and a small committee, they assembled a large group of volunteer organizations to provide a great day of fishing for Iraq, Afghanistan and Viet Nam veterans.
The day started with a motorcyle escort by the Patriot Guard Riders and registration hosted by RMEF’s North Puget Sound Chapter. The 173rd Airborne Association presented the colors before the veterans headed out to the fishing boats. Eagle Scout candidate Shane Messegee provided lunch on board.
Upon returning to the marina, members of the Snohomish County Republican Party greeted the veterans to weigh and pack their fish on ice. Next, they enjoyed a barbeque put on by Bayside Marine and Dwayne Lane Auto Centers. Afterward, the warriors received prizes from a no-cost raffle and for the top producers in the trophy ladder. Fully-donated raffle prizes included coolers with custom cushion tops, fishing poles and gear, and apparel. Trophy prizes included a tuna fishing trip by Offshore Northwest and a Columbia River salmon fishing trip.
An RMEF state grant purchased banners used at this and future events.
The success of the day was obvious from the smiles on the faces of the returning fishermen. Even those without fish talked about the great day they had on the water. Many of the volunteer captains are arranging future fishing days with the veterans they became friends with.
Thanks to all of the sponsors and volunteers who worked hard to make this a special day for our veterans!