The CVTU Veteran’s Outing
Many national organizations provide support for our military veterans. Many of those organizations use the sport we love, fly fishing, as a tool that helps veterans to heal. Trout Unlimited is one of those national organizations. The Clinton Valley Chapter (CVTU) recently became one of TU’s chapters to focus efforts on our veterans.
During CVTU’S strategic planning discussions, increased community involvement was identified as a goal for the Chapter. The CVTU board discussed numerous ways to improve their community involvement with one option being a veterans’ event that would say thank you for our veterans’ service to the nation and the community. The event focused on eight local military veterans within the Chapter’s boundaries, no matter the branch of service or the timeframe of service. The board looked for veterans with limited fly fishing experience, who showed a desire to learn the sport and interested in conservation as both items are a driving force for TU.
The event was planned as an all-expense paid outing, including a two-day guided float trip, lodging, a weekend of gourmet food, and the additional thank you of a new fly rod and reel. CVTU utilized its 2019 Southeast Michigan TU Holiday Social as the fundraiser for this outstanding event. The holiday social is usually a gathering of local TU chapters (CVTU, Vanguard, Challenge, and Paul Young) to celebrate the year’s end and, of course, tell some fishing stories. CVTU prepared ten raffle items and provided attendees with an opportunity to sponsor a veteran during the planned 2020 outing. With the fundraising focus of this event being veterans, it was a complete success with members from all chapters giving from their hearts and supporting the outing and our veterans. The CVTU board created an application form and selected eight outstanding veterans. While receiving applications, CVTU worked on setting up the event, including organizing the lodging and guide services at the Pere Marquette River Lodge in Baldwin, Michigan. CVTU board members purchased rods from Semper Fly Rods and reels from River Traditions. A huge shout-out is in order for those two companies for their support.
When the Chapter reached out to those three businesses, they shared CVTU’s excitement with the veterans’ outing and provided outstanding service. At the time that CVTU was planning and organizing this tremendous event, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. There was a tremendous amount of concern that the Chapter’s first veterans’ outing would not even take place. To our good fortune, the pandemic slowed its spread. On June 26th, eight veterans arrived at the lodge for a fun-filled weekend of meeting new friends, learning about Trout Unlimited, fly fishing, and, most importantly, receiving the thanks that they all well deserve. We had representatives from the Army, Navy, and Marines who served in Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
The veterans arrived Friday afternoon and spent time getting acquainted and meeting their CVTU hosts. The social time consisted of stories and great conversation. The CVTU hosts explained how the event came about and outlined Trout Unlimited’s conservation efforts throughout the state. The evening ended around the campfire after an outstanding dinner prepared by the hosts and each veteran being presented with their new fly rod outfit.
Saturday started with a great morning breakfast and a crash course in fly casting where the veterans seemed to be naturals. After learning to cast, veterans met up with lodge guides and headed off for a day on the river. Upon returning, they came back to a great meal and a campfire that brought about great stories from their fishing adventure.
Sunday consisted of the same great schedule and plenty of smiles from the veterans, CVTU hosts, and lodge guides. All of the veterans had a great weekend and, most importantly, left knowing that they are appreciated for the service that they performed for our nation.
With the success of this event, CVTU plans to take it to the next level. The Chapter learned a great deal about itself, as well as the other chapters in the area, and the willingness to support veterans. The Chapter is extremely proud of their first veterans’ outing and to have spent the weekend with the sponsored veterans. They each received a free one-year Trout Unlimited membership. Hosting this event was not easy, and it took a great deal of coordination, but for those who worked on the event, it was very rewarding and one that needs to occur every year. CVTU will continue working to build on this event and has already begun preparing for a 2021 Veterans Appreciation Weekend.
While some national veterans’ organizations help with physical and psychological healing for our veterans, CVTU volunteers are not equipped for this. They are a group of people who care about our rivers, fly fishing, our community, and, most importantly, our veterans. Therefore, creating a memorable experience and offering their sincere gratitude is perfect for volunteers to achieve. Due to this event’s success, excitement shown by our veterans, and the tremendous sense of giving back to those who have given so much, CVTU encourages each Michigan TU chapter to consider some event that reaches out and thanks our veterans.