Fishin' for Freedom

Courtesy of Alton Jones
Little Alton holding an AT-4; a shoulder-fired anti-tank weapon.

This past weekend I participated in the Fishing for Freedom even on Lake Belton here in Texas. It’s been put on for the past several years by some of the local boat dealers. Cliff Brown and Rick Smith are big contributors. They get local anglers and pros to take soldiers form Ft. Hood out on Lake Belton. It’s actually a pretty big deal; first prize is a fully-rigged bass boat. The purpose of the event is for us to try and give a little piece back to the soldiers for the sacrifices they make for us.

I was the speaker at the banquet on Friday night, and they had more than 1,000 people in attendance. It was really eye-opening. This was my first year participating in the event, and I had no idea how big of an event it was, and how much it means not only to the soldiers, but to me as well. Since I was one of the pros, I got to be part of the delegation that went into Ft. Hood for a tour. Little Alton and Gary Klein and I went and met some of the commanding officers and then participated in some of the weapons training and simulations. It was really cool.

In the photo, Little Alton is holding an AT-4; a shoulder-fired anti-tank weapon. It’s loaded with dummy ammo but feels just like the real thing. When you go into the simulator, the entire room is screens. When it starts, there are tanks and enemies coming at you. 

It’s war games all the way around. My favorite simulator was the close quarters combat simulator. It sets up a scenario where you feel like you’re in Baghdad. There’s an Islamic call to prayer playing, and you actually kick in a door to start, then file in and clear the rooms. There are hostages, families and hostiles. It’s really, really intense. The lead guy (Little Alton) has a machine gun, then the rest of us followed in with handguns.

Saturday morning was the tournament, and it was a stark contrast from Lake Falcon. There were 289 teams participating, and there were only 2 limits weighed in. I fished with Sgt. Earnest Chainey, and we finished 14th. 

However, the coolest thing was something that Earnie did for me; it brought tears to my eyes.

Earnie is a Purple Heart recipient who has been wounded on five different occasions. When he received one of them, he was driving in a convoy when the vehicle was struck by a bomb. The neat thing he did for me was present me with his 1st cavalry combat patch that he was wearing when he got injured. I didn’t know what to say or how to respond. I can’t tell you how much that meant to me. I’m already making plans to put it in a shadow box with a photo of me and Earnie fishing together, then it’s going right next to my Classic trophy.

Right now I’m with my good friend Eric Williams, who has been gracious enough to let me and my daughter deer hunt on his ranch any time this fall, so I’m sure I’ll take him up on that. He’s rebuilding a lake, so we discussed how to improve his fish habitat.

Tomorrow I’m heading down to east Texas for my hospitality event that benefits Dallas Theological Seminary. We’ll treat a lot of the donors to a good time fishing. Then I’ll leave straight from there and head to Conroe for the Toyota Texas Bass Classic, which is next week. By my next blog, I should have a practice day under my belt. I expect it to be a classic fall turnover tournament. We finally had a few cool nights here in Texas, with temperatures down in the 40s, so they should start behaving accordingly.

I’m looking forward to it.

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