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Tom Mix, Published June 17 2012

Angling with honor: Fishing event well received by area veterans

Fargo

Fifty years ago, Larry Kitchen was a member of the United States Navy serving in the Vietnam War.

Kitchen served two years operating heavy artillery on the USS St. Paul battleship cruiser, and like many veterans of Vietnam, he returned home to anti-war demonstrations. There was little fanfare and very few goodwill gestures directed to Kitchen and other soldiers.

Kitchen, originally from Houston, pressed on and eventually moved to Lisbon, N.D. His post-war experiences stayed with him. He never felt entirely accepted or appreciated as a veteran and distanced himself from participating in veteran-related activities.

Those feelings Kitchen lived with for 48 years were altered for the better earlier this month. That’s when Kitchen decided to participate in the Fargo YMCA and YMCA Service Club’s sixth annual Thank You Veterans fishing outing in conjunction with the Fargo-Moorhead Walleyes Unlimited Inc. and the F-M Chapter of Muskies Inc.

“It felt so good,” Kitchen said of the event that was held at on Big Cormorant Lake near Lake Park, Minn. “Everyone was so nice and they did such a super job. They did the works for us. I really appreciate what they did.”

Forty-plus veterans were bused from the Veterans Hospitals in Fargo and Lisbon that have promoted the event to its residents and non-resident veterans the last six years.

YMCA youth development and camp coordinator Dave Harman said the event has seen steady growth over the years. Six veterans participated in the inaugural event.

Members of F-M Walleyes Unlimited, Inc. and F-M Muskies Inc. volunteered their time and boats. Each volunteer guide was paired with two veterans for a four-hour fishing trip capped off by a dinner and a ceremony.

Prizes were awarded to veterans who caught the largest fish.

“For me, personally, it is probably the most rewarding fishing outing I do all year,” F-M Walleyes Unlimited, Inc. President Scott Brewer said. “To be able to give back to those guys who risked everything they have for their country is extremely rewarding. It’s an honor to be able to take the veterans out on the lake for a day when they can enjoy themselves.”

F-M Muskies Inc. president Brett Waldera has participated in the event for two years and said his club has steadily increased the amount of boats and guides that participate.

“I think it is a fantastic event,” Waldera said. “I think the guides get as much out of it, if not more, as the veterans we take out fishing. It is something we are really fortunate to do and give something back to those guys.”

Kitchen said he already has plans for attending the event next year.

“My favorite part was being appreciated by everyone for what we did as servicemen,” Kitchen said. “It was a memorable trip.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562