By Carlos Lazo
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Tribute: A gift or service showing respect, gratitude or affection.
The service presented May 12, 2012, at Eastman Lake, Calif., was a free opportunity to go fishing. The respect, gratitude and affection were for veterans, wounded warriors who had served in the military.
More than 20 veterans and their family members, along with more than 30 volunteers, took part in the first "Take a Warrior Fishing" event at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Eastman Lake near Raymond. Organized by Carrie Richardson, senior park ranger at Eastman Lake, the event provided veterans the opportunity for a relaxing day of fishing at the lake.
"It was something I wanted to do, being from a veteran's family," said Richardson. "My father-in-law served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam."
In true military form, the event began with a meeting of park staff and volunteers at 6 a.m. Volunteer boat captains were briefed on the day's schedule, safety checks were performed, fishing equipment was prepared and safety briefings were all done even before the veterans arrived at 8 a.m.
From there, volunteer boaters were grouped with a veteran and took to the water, getting straight to the fun.
"This is one of the reasons I became a park ranger, to share the outdoors with people. Events like this really make the heart happy," said Richardson.
Richardson had the idea following a meeting with a Central Valley veterans partnership in January.
Sacramento District commander Col. Bill Leady attended the event, trying his luck at catching the big one, and talking to veterans and volunteers.
"It was just a great event," said Leady, "I'm really proud to be a part of this."
After several hours of fishing, everyone met back on land for lunch and a performance by a local band. Photos were taken, stories were shared and plaques were presented to the veterans.
For Richardson, her hope is that both volunteers and veterans take something special from the event.
"I hope our boaters take away maybe a new fishing buddy, to share the love and joy of fishing," she said. "I hope our veterans take away the fact that they're loved. That we appreciate all the sacrifice and service that they did, are doing for us. It's nice to give it back because they're giving everyday for the service that they did."