I got the idea to take veterans out fishing during the spring of 2007. I was hoping to do something on a personal level to thank our wounded and recovering veterans for their service to our country. A conversation with my father, an Army veteran, led me to wonder if taking service members out on free charter fishing trips might provide a well-deserved physical and psychological respite. Some research into existing programs led me to believe that there was indeed a place for a program like the one I had in mind.
As a civilian, I did not have the natural connections to my local military community that I needed to get the program off the ground. In 2008 I reached out Master Sergeant (ret.) Cliff Potter and Staff Sergeant Robert Hibson, friends and colleagues, who offered their assistance. They were instrumental in setting up the skeleton of what would later become VA Charters.
Our inaugural trip took place on July 7, 2009. Our first group was a group of young men from the New Haven Veterans Center, all recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, all with a service connected injury or condition. It was a great trip – the fish hit regularly and everyone had an opportunity to reel in a “keeper”. It was tremendously rewarding to be able to thank the veterans personally for their service, and to watch them relax and enjoy themselves on the boat. We enjoyed the experience so much that we did seven additional trips before the end of the season, all at no cost to the veterans.
Once we had time to reflect on our experience, we realized we wanted to be able to offer this opportunity to more veterans in more places. Consequently, the idea for VA Charters was born. One boat working alone would limit the trips to local veterans only. On the other hand, many captains working out of multiple ports would allow many more veterans the chance to spend time out on the water. In December of 2009, Veteran Angler Charters received our 501(c)(3) status. In the decade since then, we have expanded to 5 boats operating in 4 states: Black Mariah and Flying Connie Charters, fishing out of Connecticut; Fire Escape Charters, fishing out of Plymouth, MA; River Rebel Charters, fishing out of Bristol , RI; and Miss Meghan II, of Mainetunafishing.com, fishing out of Saco, Me. We currently run approximately 70 free trips per season, and look forward to the continued expansion of our fleet and program. Fishin’ is indeed our mission. Ultimately, our goal is to create a national network of the very best charter boat captains, whose goal it will be to serve those who have served us.
Captain Kathy Granfield