STEVENSVILLE — The Trolling with the Troops free fishing outing for military veterans, set for its third trip Saturday, Aug. 17, continues to ride a wave of support from the community.
“It’s rewarding,” said “Coho” Bob Lausman, a boat captain and volunteer with the event. It’s a way to say thanks to the veterans and give them a relaxing day and a chance to bond with other veterans, Lausman said.
The first year the event was held, in 2017, 17 charter boat captains and 68 veterans took part. Last year, 28 boats and 98 vets set sail from marinas around the Twin Cities.
Trolling with the Troops was the idea of Scott Mann, a Buchanan native who served in the Marines from 1997 to 2001. After the Sept. 11 attacks he enlisted in the Air Force and was injured in an industrial accident during a Middle East deployment in 2005. Fishing was a big part of his re-adjustment to civilian life, and he wanted to share that opportunity with other veterans.
The project continues to be supported by the Southwest Michigan Steelheaders, a group of salmon fishing devotees.
“The Steelheaders are always looking for ways to give back to the community,” said Jim Marohn, president of the organization. “We love fishing, and we love doing something for the veterans.”
Lausman got the American Legion Post 568 in Stevensville and its women’s auxiliary involved, as well.
“I have a heritage with the Steelheaders and the Legion post” through his late father, Ted, Lausman said.
The post will host a dinner for the veterans and captains after the outing, with Lausman cooking up a special recipe with 110 pounds of salmon.
Stacy Shaffer, with the American Legion auxiliary, is designing T-shirts for the participants. Local businesses and restaurants are donating gift cards for the captains.
The Whirlpool Veterans Association and Lest We Forget are other groups that have come on board.
Jimmy Young, an Air Force veteran with the Whirlpool group, said he had taken part in fishing trips like this in Muskegon and Manistee, and thought the St. Joseph-Benton Harbor area would be perfect for such an event.
The relaxing setting out on the lake is the perfect place for veterans to share their experiences, said Young, whose father served in Vietnam and grandfather served during World War II and the Korean war.
“It’s the right atmosphere for them to tell their stories,” Young said.
Veterans go home with more than memories. The catch of the day is cleaned by volunteers and divided among the anglers.
At the end of the outing, the boats are escorted into the harbor by the Coast Guard, with people waving flags and signs lining the water and watching from bridges.
Contact: jmatuszak@TheHP.com, 932-0360, Twitter: @HPMatuszak