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.
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.
“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.