OLDTOWN — Around 150 disabled military veterans were treated to an afternoon of trout fishing Saturday to allow those with physical and mental handicaps including post-traumatic stress syndrome the opportunity for relaxation and fellowship.
Known as the Disabled Veterans Fishing Outing, the first-ever event was held at the pond on the Cumberland Outdoor Club’s property off state Route 51 near Oldtown.
About 100 disabled vets, including many Vietnam- era veterans from the area, joined about 40 vets bused in from the Martinsburg (W.Va.) VA Medical Center to line the pond with rods and tackle boxes.
The event was supported by the Vietnam Vet/Legacy Vet Motorcycle Club, with the assistance of the Cumberland Outdoor Club, which donated the use of the property.
“This was a great day. I’m glad I came out. I don’t fish. It was my first time and I caught six fish,” said Vietnam War veteran Preston Brown.
Brown said he found life after the war difficult.
“I’m getting more comfortable. I’m not as angry as I used to be,” said Brown, who lives in Martinsburg.
He said support is growing for vets with physical and mental health disabilities.
“When I first went there (the Martinsburg VA Medical Center), we had five vets; now, it’s up to 260 vets a week. It’s a blessing,” said Brown.
Brown said the important thing for vets is to take the first step and ask for help.
Many volunteers assisted with the event, doing everything from providing food and logistical support to teaching vets how to fish and cleaning the catches.
Local residents Ron Smith and Ron Lewis helped organize the outing, which is an effort to continue to support vets after their service is complete and they are trying to readjust to civilian life.
“The weather turned out great and everyone is having a great time. We’re very happy, very pleased with it,” said Smith.
Both Smith and Lewis said they hope to have the event next year.
Although some bass and bluegills were caught, the overwhelming catches of the day were rainbow trout.
Michael Rafferty, 32, a U.S. Army veteran with PTSD, caught one of the largest fish of the day — a 23 and 7/8 inch, 6-pound rainbow trout.
Rafferty, from Virginia, served 12 years in the Army, including route security in Iraq and combat missions in Afghanistan.
Rafferty said that any vet needing help needs to reach out. “They’ve got to make that call before it’s too late,” he said.
Rafferty donated the fish back to the motorcycle club but is going to be presented with a mounted replica of his catch.
The pond was stocked by the Outdoor Club from the Laurel Hill Trout Farm and also by fish from the Maryland Department of Natural Re-sources’ freshwater fisheries.
“We are glad to be able to do it for the disabled vets,” said Dave Martin, head of the hunting and fishing committee for the outdoor club.
Volunteers for the event included Bruce and Debbie Snyder, Jim and Ellen Hines, Rick Stallings, Tommy and Joan Martin, Gene Kesner, Tracy Snyder, Larry Kenny, Doug Resh, Ray Snider and Eddie Pierce.
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