As Daniel Berryman casts his line off a boat in Catfish Lake in Eagle River, he talks about why this weekend is so important to him.
“I had two friends that were part of this organization and I was like ‘Man look at all these fishing and hunting events you guys do, that’s so cool.’ They got me involved and then when I got here. I realized it’s not really about the hunting and the fishing. It is that’s the benefit. It’s nice to catch a big fish, but we really enjoying meeting the local community and each other,” said Berryman.
Each other refers to veterans, more specifically a wounded warrior.
“I was wounded in Afghanistan in May 2009. I’m retired Sgt. First Class Army National Guard. I did route clearance. I was an engineer the 17 years I was in,” said Berryman. “So what we did is I looked for road side bombs and we cleared road side bombs. I was hit by an IED.”
The weekend spent fishing on the Eagle River Chain gives veterans like Berryman a chance to share their experience with people who understand what it’s like.
“That’s the mission really is connecting relationships with the heroes and the local community,” said Berryman.
Berryman got so much out of events like this one, he’s now a Lead Guide for Wounded Warriors in Action.
This is the 6th year Eagle River has hosted Wounded Warriors in Action for a weekend long fishing trip. Scott Samuels gets the local sponsors helps organize it each year.
“I got to tell you a personal thing. I thought the first year when the warriors came in, it might be kind of depressing because these are wounded vets,” said Samuels. “It was like the opposite; they are so much fun. These guys are great. I just had a blast with everyone.”
Everyone has such a great time that Samuels has had the same fishing guides return each year. Jay Hollnagel is one of the guides and a veteran himself.
“Everybody has one mission is to come home, but everybody takes a chance of coming home under a flag. It’s real and it’s a lot of stress and the way you get through this stress is leaning on each other. And that’s what brings everybody back,” said Hollnagel. “So for me to come out and guide for these people, it’s a brotherhood and you miss it. So you get all the guys together. Guys walk the same dirt, done the same things. So it’s like coming back together again and that’s why I enjoy doing it.”
On Friday morning, Jay was paired up with wounded warrior Marsha Rogers. The organization flew her in from California for the weekend.
“It’s just a comradery that you don’t get on an everyday basis now that you’re out,” said Rogers.
She served in the Army from 2003 to 2006. This was Marsha’s first time musky fishing. She even got the opportunity to learn from one of the best, Celebrity fisherman Joe Bucher.
Bucher spent time out on the water with all eight veterans.
“The big thing is that this is the least we can do. It’s an honor. I’m humbly honored just to spend the weekend with these folks,” said Bucher.
That sentiment means the world to Marsha.
“Kind of reminds me why I love my country so much. These people are donating their time. They don’t have to do that. Taking time out teach me, like little ‘ol me. It’s pretty amazing,” said Rogers.
Everything from the fishing rods to the flight is covered. The veterans don’t have to pay for any of it.
You can learn more about the Wounded Warriors in Action program on its website.