Today my career dream comes true, when the NBC Sports Network premieres the first episode of the Ultimate Fishing Experience TV Series. When I first met my friend Jason Wald, it didn’t take long to realize how much we had in common. Although we were raised on opposite coasts with different influences, we are both extremely passionate about our families, our careers and fishing, but we didn't identify our most important shared interest until several months after we met. I shared a concept with Jason about a fishing show I wanted to do with Heroes. He responded by telling me that that he had written a similar treatment about a year before. We soon agreed on a partnership and started Under The Bridge Productions LLC, a production company with a unique mission. Create engaging, original programming with a purpose and value that will transcend the broadcast.
More than just a fishing show, the goal of the Ultimate Fishing Experience TV series is to create awareness for the needs of our returning troops as they transition back to civilian life. They have all been trained and programmed to be warriors. When they come home there is no switch to turn off the warrior and turn on the civilian, which can make the transition back to husband, father or co-worker a difficult one. As a result, divorce, substance abuse and suicide rates among returning veterans is alarming, but many credit fishing as a form of therapy that helps them relax and re-acclimate with their surroundings.
In tonight's premiere episode, viewers will meet some familiar faces, including a very special guest Hero, a retired Marine who has dedicated his life to advocacy for Veterans. Like most medically and honorably discharged Marines, Sgt. Joe Kowalski (formerly of Rods & Wheels) would do anything he could to get his boots on the ground and join his brothers in the fight for freedom. Medically, unable to do so, he still manages to serve his country and his fellow Veterans by teaching them how to use fishing as therapy to deal with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and ultimately helps reduce, substance abuse, divorce and suicide among veterans. The very same reasons, that in my mind make him an American Hero.
I must say that through the course of this journey I have been inspired and rewarded more than any job or paycheck could possibly pay. I get to change lives through fishing, and the best part is that you can too.
Tonight's episode will be full of surprises, and I hope you can take the time to tune in at 8:30pm ET and watch. While Jason & I are on the road producing another episode, we hope you will watch, and be inspired to reach out and help our returning troops any way you can.
Now it's your chance to be a Hero. If you have the means to take a Veteran fishing, I urge you to reach out to your local VA office and make it happen, or at least browse through our network of organizations dedicated to helping heroes to make a donation or volunteer. At the very least, when you see a veteran in the street, in the airport or anywhere, take 15-seconds to shake their hand and let them know you appreciate their service. With a gut wrenching suicide rate of 18 veterans a day, the hand you shake might be a life you save.
I must thank my amazing wife and family, my friend and partner Jason Wald, Stacy Twiggs and the dozens of people and businesses that are donating time and resources to make life easier for our veterans, and most certainly the NBC Sports Network for giving us this opportunity to make a difference and Make it Count!
Ultimate Fishing Experience TV premieres TONIGHT, January 5, 2012 at 8:30pm ET on the NBC Sports Network.
I hope you'll spread the word and be inspired.