A river of hope for wounded warriors

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They are known as Warriors in Transition. And last Friday morning that transition couldnt have been starker.

From the demands of the battlefield and the physically and mentally enveloping pressures of counterinsurgency warfare, to the tranquility and enjoyment of an early July morning on the Potomac River, these warriors and their local business sponsors shared a camaraderie of peace.

Under the aegis of the Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce and the Science Application International Corporation, a U.S. Homeland Security contractor, 20-plus military veterans and active duty personnel enjoyed a morning of bass fishing on the individual boats of volunteer bass fishermen. Directing the event at the Belle Haven Marina was Captain Steve Chaconas, owner of National Bass Guide Service.

This is something we can do that benefits both us and them, Chaconas said. 

Most of the soldiers attending the event had seen action and suffered wounds in Iraq and Afghanistan and are now part of the Warriors in Transition program. This is a great event for us, said Sgt Eric Wolfe, who had served with the 276th Engineers in Afghanistan, and was attending with his nine-year-old son Peyton. But Im really more of a bait handler and tier. My son is the real fisherman. 

Specialist Kenny Trease, stationed at Fort Belvoir, saw service in Iraq with the 10th Mountain Division, 2nd Brigade. I used to fish a lot with my grandfather. But, he passed away and I dont really get a chance to fish much any more. Im really looking forward to this today, he said.

Ashley McNeff, a SAIC managing partner, whose company helped organize the event with Chaconas and Katy Fike, a past Chamber president, is no stranger to the War on Terrorism. I met my husband at the Pentagon on 9/11. He was in the Old Guard at the time and one of the initial first responders to enter the building while it was still burning. He was also injured that day, she said.

[Fort] Belvoir reaches out to the community and we wanted to given these soldiers something fun to do, Fike said. 

SAIC sponsored 10 fishing boats and the Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce sponsored 10 boats, according to Fike. Various Chamber business members participated in sponsoring the program that included a picnic lunch after the fishing. In addition to those boats with fishermen, there was also one for the press to visit the anglers as they tried to reel in their hoped for catches.

The nice thing about this sport is that you meet all kinds of people with a wide array of backgrounds, said Kevin MacClary, who provided his bass boat. MacClary, the head of a construction business and past president of the Bandit Bass Anglers of Fairfax, has been fishing for fun and competitively for 25 years.

This bass crowd is a really good group and we do a whole host of charity events, he said. In fact, we actually score competition points for our clubs by doing charity events like this, MacClary explained as the engine in his Champion Bass boat revved up to 65 miles per hour across the water.

The U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command was established to aid and support wounded, ill and injured soldiers and their families to enjoy a full and rewarding life. It has helped nearly 56,000 soldiers since its establishment in June 2007, according to the Military Health System.

We want to excite each soldier about their future so that they work hard during their rehabilitation, said Brig. Gen. Gary Cheek in an article for Military Health System. Success is directly related to attitude. The message is that you can have a rich life [and that] you still have abilities.

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