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Service members treated to day on the lake

Soldiers, Airmen and family members spend day with volunteers from Evergreen Bass Club

Northwest Guardian

Published: 11:00PM July 24th, 2014

As a child, Dan Carr would take any chance he had to go fishing with his father. Now as a sergeant 1st class in 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, he began taking his son Daniel, 6, to American Lake.

Their most recent trip was with bass fishing expert Don Hankinson, of the Evergreen Bass Club in Tacoma.

The club held its sixth annual Fishing with America’s Heroes Saturday at American Lake’s Russell Landing on JBLM Lewis North.

For Carr, the early Saturday morning on the lake meant more than a peaceful and quiet escape from his busy workweek.

“It’s a little father-son time to sit back, relax and enjoy the rest of the day,” Carr said.

Many other service members also brought members of their family for the free day of fishing.

For Sgt. Kris Higgins of 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, it was a unique way to spend a weekend with his wife, Sonja, and their three children — Alyssa, 12, Gavin, 10, and Gage, 2. “This will be (the kids’) first time out on a boat,” Higgins said. “Any time I get to spend with my family is special.”

Seeing service members with their families on a fishing trip is heartwarming for Evergreen Bass Club’s Al Lewis, a retired lieutenant colonel who has coordinated the fishing event the last three years.

“It sends chills down your back and even a tear in your eye sometimes,” Lewis said.

After a complimentary breakfast made by the Steilacoom Kiwanis Club, 27 fishing boats — each with its own volunteer expert — took the groups onto the water. Fishing rods, reels and tackle boxes were already sitting ready for use in the boats.

Afterward, the club hosted a lunch for not only the 125 who fished, but also their families who wanted to sleep-in rather than wake-up for the 6 a.m. check-in.

Lewis said the club raised about $8,200 in cash donations and another $1,000 worth of fishing gear and T-shirts that were handed out to all participants and volunteers at the event.

But the club wasn’t alone, they had help from other groups to raise funds and feed the families; including, the Steilacoom Kiwanis Club, Lakewood Republican Women, Rainier Apparel, and Topside Bar and Grill from Steilacoom.

In addition to members of the civilian community giving their support for the free fishing event, the staff of JBLM’s Russell Landing didn’t charge the club or their volunteers for bringing their boats onto the lake.

Lewis said the overall support from all those involved not only helped make the event possible, it makes the club’s job easier the day-of the event.

“It allowed us to really focus on pairing the boaters and making sure the number of boats and the number of service members match up,” Lewis said. “That’s always the most difficult thing.”

Service members said they were appreciative of the free event, especially those who admitted they normally don’t have the time or the money to go fishing.

Master Sergeant Micah Galdardo, of 1st Special Forces Group, said he had never been to the club’s event in the past because he wasn’t available during past summers; instead he was deployed or busy with other duties.

Galdardo, a native of Oregon, said the best part of the fishing event was people coming together and sharing their knowledge of the Pacific Northwest region. “There could be somebody from somewhere completely different from here and it might be weird at first, but things like this bring people together,” Galdardo said. “It’s a completely different atmosphere; even in regards to fishing.”

Dean Siemon: dean.siemon@nwguardian.com @deansiemon