RALEIGH, N.C. --
The sun climbs lazily over the treetops, shining its early morning rays over the slick backs of the aquatic bounty. A large shadow creeps overhead, and suddenly a small, shiny object breaks the opaque surface, flitting through the muck.
Those were the actions experienced by Marines from Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, along with other service members who attended the 5th annual Warriors on the Water Bass Fishing Tournament at Lake Jordan in Raleigh, N.C., April 21 to 23.
The tournament is an annual military appreciation event founded by Desert Storm veterans Hal Abshire, Greg Lahr and Bob Cunningham as a display of continual support to service members.
“Greg and I were trying to come up with a unique way to show appreciation to the service members coming home from overseas,” said Abshire, vice president of WOW. “We then met up with Bob and because we all fished bass tournaments, it went from there.”
Held on a lake near U.S. Army post Fort Bragg, service members from each branch of the Department of Defense teamed up with local and professional fisherman in a day-long tournament seeing which team could catch the largest bass.
The first day of the event is when service members attend an “icebreaker” social function aboard Fort Bragg where they are introduced to their boater teammates. Participants are lauded with free fishing equipment before meeting their teammates; local to professional anglers who’s only reward is being able to fish with a military member.
“I live in a country where I can make a living by bass fishing,” said Andrew Young, a professional angler. “That wouldn’t be possible if not for our men and women in uniform. Not only is it something I feel obligated to do, but it is a true honor and a privilege to take one of these guys out for a day of fishing.”
The second day is when the professional fishers and sponsors visited nearby Ft. Bragg and Pope Air Force Base, N.C., to tour operational exercises and routines of the soldiers and airmen.
“These visits are designed to give civilians who have no prior ties with the military a glimpse into the men and women serving stateside as well as overseas,” said Abshire.
The third and final day is the actual tournament when service members go out with civilian fisherman for a good day of fishing. Troops and civilians share stories and experiences while angling for the largest bass.
“We’re not just getting the opportunity to fish for a day, we’re doing it with complete strangers who genuinely appreciate what we do for them,” said Lance Cpl. Matt Reeder, personnel clerk with Company I, Headquarters and Support Battalion, MCB Camp Lejeune. “They let us use their fishing poles, bait, boats; we have access to anything we need for this tournament. Whether we win or not this whole trip has been excellent.”
While the Marines of Camp Lejeune did not win the overall tournament, they won the respect of the boaters they fished with and the opportunity to receive free gear and relax with a day of fishing.
“A lot of guys didn’t come because there was no money involved,” said Young. “For me, I just want to be able to help the (service members) kick back for a day from all the training and fighting.”