This past Thursday, June 23, The First Congregational Church of Branford's Veterans Outreach Mission hosted their Take a Vet Fishing event at Killam’s Point. The turnout was larger than expected as busloads of attendees, supporters, and volunteers arrived to enjoy a calm day of fishing off Branford’s shore.
One of the goals of the mission is to offer Christian support and friendship for Veterans in the VA healthcare system through relaxing activities such as the fishing event and to provide some respite from the clinical environment. The programs’ broader goal, however, is much simpler: it is a way of saying “thank you” to those who have served to defend our country. Participants include those who have served in the armed forces from World War II to the current war in Iraq.
In addition to being entertainment for veterans in the VA healthcare, the event provides fun for their caretakers: families, physicians, and nurses. Local , Bob Reinwald who is a member of the Take a Vet Fishing Board, highlighted the founding members: Jeff Buggee, Ed Ochman, Ray Luhn, Tim Wells, and Don Potter. In addition to the Board members, volunteers from Bank of America were there to greet and assist the veterans, as were volunteers from the church. Some of the volunteers were veterans themselves.
In spite of dense clouds above and shallow tides below, the shore of Killam’s Point was a barrel of smiles. John Soehnlein from the Elks Club opened with a beautiful speech, explaining the purpose of the program, and all veteran support programs:
“We are the support system for returning US troops,” he said. “We can’t do enough to honor them.”
A picnic table with fishing rods lined against the benches was quickly emptied as Veterans took their poles to the water.
Volunteer Joe Arnson who is nicknamed "Hollywood," said Reinwald, earned his name because he always manages to find his way into a picture whenever a catch is made. Laughing, Arnson admitted to being a fishing nut, and said he has been known to occasionally elbow out a vet to get his hands on the reel so that he can be the one to make the catch.
“But, you know,” he said, grinning, “it’s all about the vets!”
True to form, Arnson made himself busy watching the tips of the fishing rods all morning. He also happily assisted participants in baiting their hooks, untangling their lines, and (for those who were unable) casting off.
Food was provided and disappeared almost as quickly as the fishing rods. Bagels were available in the earlier hours, but as noon drew near, everyone gathered around for a good old fashioned barbeque lunch consisting of hamburgers, hot dogs and soft drinks.
The day was highlighted by the rows of hopeful faces who watched their lines bobbing in the water while swapping old stories, joking, laughing, and having a good time. Though the tide was too low for anyone to catch anything big, a crab and a porgie were reeled in before the festivities were done; the best catch of the day, was of course, the company.