I had the priviledge of spending a day on the water with two guys who know all too well what Memorial Day is all about. Former B.A.S.S. Youth Director Stacy Twiggs has done more to get kids involved in fishing than anybody I know. He almost never talks about what happened to him during the Gulf War, while serving in the U.S. Navy, but I'll summarize it by saying, he's lucky to be alive and the world is a better place because of guys like Stacy. Joining Stacy and I on our Central Florida Bass Fishing Experience, another Gulf War Disabled Veteran, Sgt. Joe Kowalski, USMC (Retired). You may remember Joe from his old show Rods & Wheels on ESPN2, and his appearances on the American Hero Experience Television Series. "Sarge" is my hero, not just because of his service to our country, but also because of what he does for veterans. Through his foundation, the Major Steven Roy Andrews Fishing Outreach Program, Joe reaches out to veterans returning from and dealing with the physical and mental scars of war. He uses the deck of his boat to help our returning heroes learn how to cope with their situations and re-acclimate to civilian life.
The three of us enjoyed a great day fishing some of Central Florida's best bass fishing lakes including Lake Toho and one of the best urban fisheries in the heart of Orlando. Twenty years from now, I don't know if I'll remember any of the 30+ largemouth bass we caught that day, but I will remember how excited Sarge was to experience fishing on Lake Toho, and the joy he expressed when he caught his first Toho bass. It wasn't a giant, but it made no difference to Sarge, like the day itself, it was special. In fact it was the only one of a dozen or so bass he caught that day, that was worthy of a kiss. I'll also probably remember Sarge attempting to light his first of 6 cigars off of the sun rising over Lake Toho that morning, but the thing I will remember most is the priveledge of spending the day on the water with two American Heroes.
Memorial Day weekend is a great American holiday. It's like a prelude to summer vacation as most of us spend time with family and friends enjoying back yard barbeques, pool parties and trips to the lake. Too many people take this weekend for granted, but the families of those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom and security never will. While you spend the day home from work and school this Memorial Day, go ahead and light the grill, fire up the margarita machine, play in the pool or go fishing with your kids, but remember that freedom is NOT free. This great American weekend was paid for with the lives of American Heroes. They, their families and all who put themselves in harms way in the name of freedom deserve our unwavering gratitude and support. Before you get wrapped up in your long weekend, please consider donating to a charitable organization that supports the needs of families of the fallen or any other veteran's cause you would like to support.