Annual fishing tournament serves as healing event for veterans

Veterans participate in an annual fishing tournament (WFSB)

An annual fishing tournament in CT is something some military veterans have been participating in for years.

The annual tournament organized by the Gaylord Sports Association and the Connecticut Bass Nation serves as a stress relieving day and an opportunity to heal while making a few casts on the Connecticut River.

Joshua Crowell, an Air Force veteran, and 21 other service members at the tournament all have one thing in common. They’ve suffered an injury, illness, or disability while serving in the military.

“It’s therapy. It’s therapy for us. I know it is for a lot of us veterans,” Crowell said.

Some of the veterans can’t even walk, but it's about getting them out on the water to relax and blow off some steam in the 6th annual veterans tournament.

“They’re paired up with experienced boat captains for a bass fishing tournament. So, they’re all out on boats and they’re all out there for the day. So, everyone’s happy. We have a great day,” said Katie Joly, Gaylord Sports Association Program Manager.

The tournament takes place twice a year. Once in May at Candlewood Lake and in September at Riverside Park in East Hartford.

“For us being by a body of water is always calming and soothing. That’s what we do. We take guys out,” Crowell said.

Each veteran gets to spend the day with a skilled angler who has chosen to give back to the community by generously donating their time, boat, and fishing equipment.

“I was lucky to come back from the gulf healthy. It’s my pleasure to give something back to the community,” said Mike Lillis, a U.S. Marine veteran.

The tournament goes well beyond telling fishing tales and casting a line. It forms long-lasting bonds.

“Friendships grow, you know, you meet new people. Stay in contact with them. A lot of guys from the last tournament I did with them. I fish with them and they take me out,” Crowell said.

For 83-year-old Orie Jenkins, it’s something he has never done before.

“I haven’t caught anything yet, but I’m enjoying the day. First time I’m on a boat so I’m enjoying it,” Jenkins said.

If you’re interested in taking part in the tournament or would like to donate your time or equipment, click here.

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