Classic competitors visit veterans

SHREVEPORT-BOSSIER CITY, La. – With the Bassmaster Classic just around the corner (Feb. 24-26), 15 of the world championship competitors joined forces to visit the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center in Shreveport, La. Click to view photos from the hospital visit.

“We owe so much to those folks that have served our country and sacrificed time away from family and sacrificed their health. This is just a tiny way for our group to say thanks,” defending Classic champion Kevin VanDam said.

The anglers were visibly touched by many of the veteran patients they visited.

“This really opens your eyes and puts into perspective the devotion our military folks have to keeping us safe and free,” bass fishing legend Denny Brauer said. “These vets are in this hospital because they put themselves in harm’s way for me. They put themselves between evil people and my family … and your family. We owe them everything. So it means a lot to me to come by and tell them thank you for that devotion.”

Elite Series pro Aaron Martens values the perspective the hospital visit allows for his professional and personal life.

“Whenever I start to complain about something, I think of these guys lying in these hospital beds. They didn’t serve and sacrifice for me to complain about little stuff. They sacrificed so I can live my dreams. I keep that in mind and really try to make them proud,” Martens said.

The visit also means a lot to the patients.

“Visits like this really lift the spirits around here,” said Bob Frasier, Chief of Voluntary Service for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

“The patients know how busy these fishing stars must be during the biggest tournament of the year. And they know that they don’t have to be here. The fact that these anglers took time out of their schedule to come down here and say hello means so much,” Frasier said.

Herman Presley, an 87-year-old veteran of the Merchant Marines and a Shreveport resident, may have said it best after Bassmaster Elite Series pros Fred Roumbanis, Randy Howell and Keith Poche thanked him for his service to our country:

“You only pass this way one time. So, try to accomplish what matters most during your journey. And people matter most,” Presley said.

The Classic competitors walking the halls of Overton Brooks couldn’t have agreed more.

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