AFGE Veterans Sponsors “Fishing with Vets”

Categories: Veterans, The Insider

AFGE District 8 National Vice President Gregg James didn’t mean to go fishing. He heard about this great organization that takes veterans out fishing and just wanted to volunteer. Seeing that James himself is a veteran, the president of the organization Fishing with Vets insisted that he come along and join other veterans to fish in a lake in Minnesota. That’s how James found himself in the company of 39 other veterans and 20 professional fishing guides on a fall weekend.

Minnesota in October was cold, but James and his fellow veterans enjoyed each other’s company on Lake of the Woods where they caught well over 100 fish, including a 30-inch long Walleye that would later be cooked for them.

James’ fellow veterans were young and old. They fought in Korean, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq wars. The fishing trips and a two-night stay at Wheelers Point Resort allowed them to bond and share stories.

“It was amazing to hear some of these stories of veterans,” James said. “It’s also nice to see veterans just hanging out together and having fun.”

Veterans were grateful that they got to go on this trip free of charge. It’s the goal of Fishing with Vets to give back to the veterans' community and thank them for their service to the country.

On these fishing trips, some veterans met their long-lost colleagues they had served with in the military. James did not meet anyone he had served with, but he found out that his assigned fishing guide was his best friend’s cousin whose father was also his health teacher in high school.

James was moved that these fishing guides paid everything out of their own pockets.

“It’s a pretty amazing group of folks and to see what they’re giving back to the veterans is pretty moving,” he said.

Fishing with Vets and AFGE’s Veterans Community

James served in the Air Force for 23 years. As a member of the AFGE Veterans Committee, he always looks for way to connect the union’s veterans with veterans at large. So when the president of a Bureau of Prisons local, Mike Weber, in Minnesota told him about a friend who took veterans out on fishing trips and paid everything out of his own pocket, he was intrigued.

Andy Walsh, a probation officer in the state of Minnesota, has been taking veterans out on fishing trips for years as a volunteer at Fishing with Vets and other organizations such as DAV of Minnesota and Aitkin County. The goal of the organizations like Fishing with Vets is to take veterans out of their routine so they can get together and enjoy the therapeutic outdoors.

James wanted to help out, and so they met at Fishing with Vets’ October fishing event.

“He just had a great attitude on how he really appreciated the veterans. So I talked to him and said you’re doing a great thing for the vets and I’m part of the veterans community for AFGE and I wanted to see if we can give you some support,” James explained.

After the trip, James spoke with the AFGE Veterans Committee, which provided Walsh with a $500 check to help offset the cost of those trips. Walsh said he was shocked by the union’s generosity.

“It certainly helps us to get more veterans out,” Walsh told AFGE. “It circles back to what I can do for the community.”

Walsh put an AFGE sticker on the side of the boat that he uses to take out veterans on fishing trips.

As Fishing with Vets organizes fishing trips throughout the year, James wants to do something to connect AFGE’s veterans community with such a great organization. As the union has its AFGE Veterans of the Year, James wants to propose to the AFGE Veterans Committee to pay for the Veteran of the Year to travel to the location where the fishing trip takes place.

As the outdoors guy himself, James hopes this kind of outdoors activity would delight our veterans and foster camaraderie.

“It’s all about fellowship,” James said.

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