Ax of Patriotism

 There's an old saying that "Freedom isn't free," and this Independence Day is a great time to remember the dedication and sacrifice that our nation and our armed servicemen are making to protect us all. From the founding fathers to our current troops here and abroad, freedom and independence are more than powerful words. They are a commitment.

 One man who understands and appreciates that commitment is Joe Axton, 73, the owner of Axton's Bass City on Lake Fork in Texas. His nine years as a marine serving in Korea gave him an appreciation for the efforts of the military and made him sensitive to the needs and reception of personnel returning from foreign conflicts.

 "Some of our veterans who served in Korea and Vietnam didn't get a very good welcome when they came home," Axton says. "I'm very appreciative of what they're doing over there. I'm glad someone is willing to volunteer and take the responsibility for our freedom."

 As a sign of his appreciation, Axton is offering free Lake Fork fishing trips to any active military personnel — male or female and from any branch of service. He's putting his money where his mouth is when it comes to patriotism.

 The free trip includes chauffer service — pick up and return to the Dallas airport (that's two 200-mile round trips for Joe and his staff), three free nights stay at his motel, free fishing licenses and two free guided days of bass fishing. Servicemen and women can even bring their families, though there may not be enough guides to take spouses or children out on the water unless more volunteers are found.

 So far, only three veterans have taken advantage of Axton's generosity and hospitality, but he's hoping that more will follow.

 "We have another seven or eight lined up," Axton says, "but we need to get the word out."

 They could also use more volunteers to make the pick-up and drop-off drives and to handle the fishing trips. A few guides have volunteered their time when they aren't otherwise booked, and Axton has been giving them gas for the trips. With more volunteers, even more can be done for the veterans.

 Axton emphasizes that his offer to the troops has no political message.

 "This is not a stunt of any kind," he says. "I just wanted to find a way to support our troops. We're going to do it as long as we can."

 If you're a veteran eligible for the trip or someone looking for a way to support our troops, you can call Joe Axton toll-free at 877-525-4698 or visit their Web site