Tag Archives: Memorial Day

Connecting Veterans with Nature

Memorial Day weekend is the gateway to summer — when long, warm days call us outdoors to appreciate the wonders of nature through hunting, fishing, hiking, and dozens of other recreational pursuits. But more importantly, it is a time for remembering the contributions of our nation’s veterans and the sacrifices they’ve made to protect our country. Throughout the Northeast Region, many U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service field stations provide special opportunities to connect veterans with nature as a way to honor their public service. Here are a couple of examples.


Terry Henry, a Vietnam veteran of the Air Force displays a handsome brook trout he caught from a pond at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Richard Cronin National Salmon Station. Credit: Catherine J. Hibbard, USFWS

Since its start in 1992, the Veterans Fishing Program at Cronin National Salmon station in Sunderland, Mass. has served more than 5,000 wounded veterans. The program, run in partnership with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs and the Soldiers Home of Holyoke, provides an opportunity for wounded veterans to socialize, enjoy the outdoors and learn about fishing.

Retired hatchery manager and Vietnam veteran Micky Novak developed the program as a way to give back to the community and make connections with local veterans. Once a month, veterans come to the hatchery to fish in the pond stocked with trout from federal and state run hatcheries. The program also has attracted local veterans who volunteer at the events, helping participants fish and lending a friendly ear and smile.

At Patuxent Research Refuge in Laurel, Md., veterans participate in the “Wounded Warrior” turkey hunt, which the refuge has hosted for nearly a decade. During this year’s hunt on May 7, volunteers from the National Wild Turkey Foundation and Meade Natural Heritage Association helped support the hunt on the refuge’s North Tract — and helped four out of five hunters harvest a turkey. Afterward, the veterans were treated to lunch donated by a local vendor.


Veterans celebrate a successful day at the May 7 Wounded Warriors turkey hunt at Patuxent Research Refuge. (Credit: USFWS)

“The veterans who participate in the hunt are very happy to have the opportunity — it doesn’t matter whether they are successful or not,” said Refuge Manager Brad Knudsen. “This year was one of the most successful hunts we’ve had, but they are just glad to be back in the woods getting connected — or reconnected — to the outdoors.”

This weekend we honor and remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country and all those who have served and continue to serve to protect the nature of America.


Eastern Shore Refuge celebrates Memorial Day with a World War II relic

Memorial Day Weekend at the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge allowed 200 visitors to touch a piece of history as the refuge welcomed a relic of World War II.

On Saturday, May 25, the refuge held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the newest addition, a 120-ton, 68-foot gun barrel that was on the USS Missouri when the Japanese surrendered on September 2, 1945, ending World War II.


The 68-foot gun barrel made its final trip to the refuge from Cape Charles in early April. It was restored before the ribbon cutting. Credit: USFWS

During World War II, the refuge was the site of Fort John Custis. Fort Custis along with Fort Story across the bay in Virginia Beach protected the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.  One of the John Custis bunkers known as Battery Winslow housed two 16-inch guns, guarding the southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula as stoically as the loblolly pines guard the maritime forest today.  When World War II came to an end and the guns were no longer needed for defense, they were scrapped, becoming pieces of history living only through memory and a few photographs.

While the barrels housed in the Winslow Battery on Fort Custis were destroyed, not all experienced the same fate. Some were retired after the war, put aside and forgotten. One barrel came off of the U.S.S. Missouri Battleship, Barrel #393 was placed on the Missouri toward the end of WWII. It was present during the surrender of the Japanese and went on to defend our troops throughout the Korean War.

The day of the ribbon cutting, visitors went on to watch, as Battery Winslow became the official home of Barrel #393.

Representatives from the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy were speakers as well as a representative from the Battleship Missouri Memorial who was visiting all the way from Hawaii. Veterans from all branches of the military made their way around the barrel and through the battery as they greeted one another and took in the living history. Both Winslow Battery and Barrel #393 were recognized as important defenders of the U.S. during World War II.

One very special guest, Alan Stanz, a U.S. Navy veteran and retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee opened the ceremony with a gorgeous rendition of the national anthem on his saxophone.  Alan Stanz was the visitor services manager at the refuge when he heard about Barrel #393 two years ago. The day of the ceremony, Stanz was able to see his vision become a reality.


Former Service employee and U.S. Navy veteran, Alan Stanz, at the ribbon cutting. Stanz was instrumental in working to get the gun barrel to the refuge and was able to see his vision become a reality. Credit: USFWS

We may be reminded on the refuge that sanctuary has not always been an option.  The soldiers who gave their lives fought in places of terror and chaos, where jungles, deserts and seas have been battlegrounds in the pursuit of peace.

As Barrel #393 has found a home on this National Wildlife Refuge, may the veterans returning from war also find tranquility on refuges throughout the nation where they can breathe in the beauty of our nation and feel the freedom they have risked their lives to provide.  May the memories of fallen soldiers come to life for future visitors to the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge.  Just as we pause and listen for the call of a songbird in the canopy, we also pause to give thanks to those who fought for places like this.

Submitted by Jennifer Lewis, visitor services specialist at the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge