Gone Fishing With Heroes Of War
There’s nothing like a good fishing tale, but this isn’t one of them. This story is very real. It’s one of those wonderful moments that you hear about that makes you smile.
On Aug. 5, 29 soldiers joined 24 members of the Hawaii Freshwater Fishing Association (HFFA) and the Imua Wahiawa Freshwater Anglers (IWFA) for a day of fishing and memories at Lake Wilson Reservoir in Wahiawa.
“The main goal of the WTB Team Fishing Tournament was give back to these soldiers who have sacrificed so much for our freedoms,” says event organizer Chris Baires.
WTB stands for Warrior Transition Battalion. WTB is the unit where injured U.S. Army soldiers go to recover with the hope of returning to serve with their comrades. The sobering reality is a handful of them won’t make full recovery.
“Just because you are out of the fight for now doesn’t mean that me and others don’t think about the sacrifice you have made for us!” says Baires.
Baires says his inspiration to host the tournament came from his wife Victoria, who is currently deployed to Afghanistan with the 25th Infantry Division. Like many soldiers and their families, the Baires’ know all about sacrifices.
“She had to leave our son Levi, who is 14 months now, when he was only 6 months old,” says Baires. “It’s probably one of the hardest things that I’ve ever had to see, a mom leave her baby that early in life. Her sacrifice for our family and for our country made me want to give back in some way.”
So he turned to his passion and to his fishing mates.
“I figured what a great way to give back to soldiers by taking them out on the lake to catch fish,” says Baires, who is a member of HFFA. “I wrote up the layout of the tournament and presented it to my club at our monthly meeting. Everyone was impressed at what I had written up and how passionate I was about having this tournament, it was a unanimous vote for our club to ‘host’ the event.”
Baires says IWFA members and other local fisherman from Lake Wilson jumped at the opportunity to help, as did several local businesses and Wahiawa Christian Church.
Volunteer boat captains partnered with soldiers to see which team could catch the largest four-fish limit of largemouth bass, tucunare (peacock bass) or small-mouth bass. James Chow, a science teacher at Wahiawa Middle School and HFFA club member, made plaques for the winners. Several local fishing companies donated prizes for everyone else who competed.
“Everything went smooth the day of the tournament because everyone worked together so that the soldiers could have a great time,” says Baires. “The responses I got from the tournament were things like, ‘Thank you for what you’re doing.’ A few club members said, ‘I had a blast; we should do this every year.'”
Baires says several soldiers thanked him personally for introducing them to their “new hobby.” Smiles and laughs were plentiful as the soldiers shared their fishing tales. Baires says it was enough to convince him and others that this must be an annual event.
“I just felt that it was the right thing to do, and I was happy to do it for the soldiers,” says Baires, who finished with this emotional message to all who have served and sacrificed in the U.S armed forces:
“Your sacrifice to our country will never be forgotten. We owe you all more than this nation will ever be able to show you. But do know that we think about you daily, and we thank you for your service to our country!”