News: 80+ wounded warriors hit the Potomac during bass tournament
Story by Sgt. Rebekka Heite
MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. – Approximately 80 wounded warriors participated in the third annual Reel American Heroes Fishing Tournament on Aug. 17, 2013, starting at the Hope Springs Marina in Stafford.
The tournament was open to wounded, injured or ill warriors, disabled veterans and combat veterans. Each warrior was paired with a local bass angler and the team competed together.
Though the tournament got off to a slow start with most teams fishless, the participants didn’t let it get them down.
“We’ve caught a whole lot of friendship,” said Ron Morris, local bass angler and participant.
Many of the local bass anglers participating in this year’s tournament also competed in last year’s tournament.
“Many boaters returned from last year,” said Nelson Martinez, logistics director, Reel American Heroes Foundation.
RAHF, an all-volunteer organization, organized the event with the assistance of key sponsors and the Wounded Warrior Regiment on Quantico. WWR helped connect the RAHF with the wounded warriors who participated.
“This is the greatest tournament ever,” said Calvin “Catfish” Hunter, a Vietnam veteran and one of the local bass anglers. “When I came back from Vietnam, this didn’t happen.”
Each wounded warrior had their own reason for competing.
“When you get out on the water, you don’t think about the pain,” said Army Staff Sgt. Joshua Evans, a participant currently stationed at Fort Detrick, Md. He was injured responding to a potential vehicle-born improvised explosive device on his first deployment and again on his last deployment.
Tralene Hunston, participant, said she competed in the tournament “to get out and meet other wounded warriors.” Hunston served for four years in the Marine Corps.
Reel American Heroes Foundation started hosting the tournament three years ago after the executive director, Ron DeFreitas, met a wounded veteran who had lost both his legs six weeks before he was scheduled to retire.
“My goal is to help them get through therapy and back to normal lives,” he said. “It changed my life trying to help these folks so they can have better lives.”