It is hard to understand the many sacrifices made by members of the military in serving our country. The battle within their body, mind and soul still continues on even though they are now back home.
This past Thursday through Sunday Morning, about 70 military guests participated in the fourth annual Pay It Forward veteran’s event held at various resorts and on Saturday night at the Lake of the Woods County Fairgrounds.
Pay It Forward, Lake of the WoodsKind donations by resorts, businesses and individuals make this three night, two day fishing extravaganza possible. The mission behind Pay It Forward is to honor, recognize and celebrate all veterans. The program works to bring veterans outside our area to Lake of the Woods for a very special experience.
Two important partners, Fishing For Life and The Wounded Warrior Program, whose missions are to help veterans worked closely with the Pay It Forward organizers again for this year’s event.
The event started out Thursday night with a dinner and program at Sportsman’s Lodge. George Selcke spoke about his experiences in Vietnam and the lessons he has taken away that help him cope today.Pay It Forward, Lake of the Woods
Friday morning, after breakfast, veteran guests boarded charter boats to do some walleye fishing. There was a fairly good chop on the lake but Lake of the Woods showed off why it is The Walleye Capital of the World.
Once again, the Baudette VFW put on a wonderful BBQ lunch at Zippel Bay State Park. The park is going through renovations and actually made sure the boat access and area would be available for the annual veteran’s event. Lunch was delicious and veterans very much appreciated the gesture and good food.
Pay it Forward, Lake of the WoodsThe afternoon was spent fishing with anglers arriving back at their respective docks at 5pm to get ready for Friday evening dinner and speaker at Border View Lodge. Ryan Schmidt “Schmidty” spoke to the group about struggles after the military and how being a sniper and some of the events that happened overseas still greatly affect him to this day. Veterans spent quality time together after the speaker in anticipation of another day of fishing Saturday.Pay It Forward, Lake of the Woods
Saturday morning after a good breakfast, the group again went fishing with wonderful results. This day the boats returned at 4pm to dock in order to freshen up and ride the bus to the fairgrounds in Baudette for the fish fry, program and band.
Escorting the bus from the Wheeler’s Point area were the Border Patrol, Baudette Police Department and MN Highway Patrol. When they arrived at the fairgrounds, veterans were greeted with the ceremonial squad from the American Legion and VFW. Veterans were very touched by this and many saluted and had tears in their eyes as they walked past the squad in full uniform with flags and rifles.
Each year the program is set up so Saturday night the veterans come to Baudette to experience the small town and special community. As in past years, there was a walleye fry with all the fixings open to the public for a free will donation. All proceeds went to the Pay It Forward program.
2017 Gold sponsors, Pay it forward2017 Pay It Forward, Lake of the WoodsJack and Jim Zagaros, Pay It Forward, Lake of the woodsCelebratory squad, Pay It Forward, Lake of the Woods
Stuart Noble and crew from Noble Drug cooked the fish for the second straight year and they were delicious. Veterans loved the walleye with all of the traditional fixings and cake for desert. Vicki Blake from the Muni provided bar service for the event.
The speaker for the evening was Colonel Terry Branham. Terry gave detailed accounts of the many conflicts he was involved in as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, Gulf War and eventually combating the drug trade. The audience was glued to his every word, you could have heard a pin drop in that metal building.
Pay It Forward 2017, Lake of the WoodsAfter awarding the big fish trophy to coincidentally, Colonel Terry Branham, for his 30 inch walleye, guests enjoyed a bit more music from the Knightlighters and took the bus back to the resorts.
Veterans were put up at and provided charters by Zippel Bay Resort, Cyrus Resort, Border View Lodge and River Bend’s Resort.
Some veterans went to bed, some stayed up late and others watched a highly publicized boxing match on TV, but one thing was for sure, the weekend was a great success. Initially, the program was set up to provide a fishing trip with great lodging, meals and entertainment. Those things exist, but the real magic is veterans spending time with other veterans. This weekend was about healing, laughter, tears, new friendships, hope, and love. Magic happened this weekend and it all happened up at Lake of the Woods.
To find out more about Pay It Forward, become a sponsor or if you know of a veteran from outside the Lake of the Woods area who may benefit from the Pay It Forward event, contact Joe Henry at [email protected] or check out www.payitforwardlow.org.