That Girl’s Blog: Operation Reel Heroes 2017

Saturday was a beautiful day to be on the water. It was an even better day to have the chance to spend time with some of our military veterans catching fish and swapping stories. This Saturday was Operation Reel Heroes and I was thrilled to be invited to sneak on a boat once again for this annual event.

Have you heard of Operation Reel Heroes? Operation Reel Heroes is a non-profit organization comprised of boaters and fisherman who volunteer their boats and time to give thanks and honor some very special people. The group was founded by Arthur Johnson and Paul Lecesse. The boats and fisherman come from across the Massachusetts coast, not just here on Cape Cod. Boat captains are partnered with their guests through the Wounded Warrior Project and local veterans groups on the Cape.

As a radio personality, I was SUPPOSED to be on the media boat with the official photographer and news people. I will openly admit that I “jumped ship” (so to speak) when I saw that an old friend of mine had volunteered his time and his boat to be part of the fleet. I was a “stow-away” on the Krista Mari along with “Captain Jim”, his mate (who is also a military veteran), and his Operation Reel Hero guests, Jim (a Vietnam veteran from here on Cape Cod) and his son.

Operation Reel Heroes 2017

In all, 45 boats loaded up at various mid-Cape marinas and boat ramps and rallied just off Smugglers Beach for the 7am start. There were 48 veterans and their guests who ranged in all ages from all over the region. The national anthem is played over the radio channel and the boats scramble to find scup, stripers, black sea bass and possibly bluefish and fluke!

View of the starting scramble from the Krista Mari owned by James Egan

Posted by Cat Wilson onSunday, June 4, 2017

As you can see, it was a nearly picture perfect day on the water. We all laughed and talked as we listened to various boats radio in their catches. There was some friendly ribbing and perhaps a few exaggerated measurements for length of fish.

The Fish Were Biting

Afterwards, fish were filleted and boats were washed and some trailered to parking lots. We all met up at Trader Ed’s for a BBQand awards. Mostly we met up for a last chance to swap stories and smiles. There were lots and lots of smiles.

I spent a little time chatting with the captain of our boat. Jim has been volunteering his time and his boat for Operation Reel Heroes for several years.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect,” Jim confessed. “They said wounded veterans. I expected physical wounds. Over the years, I have come to realize, the wounds aren’t necessarily what you see on the outside.”

He is completely right. Many of the men and woman struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s difficult to discuss and many of the veterans will suffer in silence.

Operation Reel Heroes offers veterans a weekend free from their demons. It’s a chance to get out on the water and fish, relax, tell stories or simply listen. It’s a day in the sun away from televisions, internet and cell phones. Friends, fathers, sons, husbands, wives, mothers and daughters can relax and enjoy some time together. One veteran mentioned that it was a chance to feel “human” again.

Operation Reel Heroes 2017

It takes a dedicated team of amazing people to come together for a weekend like this. I spoke with Arthor Johnson, who wanted me to make sure to thank as many people and businesses as possible: Bass river marina for all the slips for the boats, Maverick and One Source Power for the giant American flag at the ramp at Smugler’s Beach, Great White oysters for the great raw bar, Sundancers for the pre-tournament meeting place and Trader Ed’s for the after tournament party. “What a weekend the smiles on the faces said it all,” Arthur told me. “Couldn’t have asked for better weather and a good time. We are tired we are beat but we are already thinking about 2018 operation reel heroes.”

Here is a list of boats you may have seen this weekend volunteering their crew, time, rods, bait and fuel for this powerful event. Thank you all!

Fully Involved, TEMPERANCE, cORAline, Fat Willy, Dire Straights, Chasin’ Tail, Yknot, Two-NaBros, Solemate, Bhookend, SandMan, Outrage, Tuna Tales, Slainte, Nancy Alice, Miss Bridget, Cassidy Anne, Honey Badger, Unc’s Leg-A-Sea, Chasin Tale, Krista Mari, On Time, A Lure, Fishbone, John Sharkey, Iron Genny, Q-TIME II, Reel World, Bittersweet, Beyond The Fog, Smokin Reels, Sovisticated, Powerplay, RIPPLE, 3 GILs, Incognito,, JJ, Pair of Kings, Fin-ish Work?, Done Deal, Eclipse, What’Everett Takes and Mediterranean Sun.

That Girl Caught a Fish

On a personal note: I ran into an old friend of mine on the water this weekend. I know it’s been a very difficult year for him. To see him smile and open up to talk for just a little while makes the whole event worth supporting again and again.

Arthur and Paul… Thank you.

By the way, if you would like to offer support for next year’s event, please follow this link to learn more about Operation Reel Heroes.

If you have a story or pictures from the day, please email me! Click here: That Girl In The Morning

About Cat Wilson

Cat Wilson is "That Girl" on Cape Country 104 – a Cape Cod native and longtime Cape radio personality. She is a passionate supporter of Military and Veteran causes on the Cape and also hosts local music spotlight program, “The Cheap Seats” on Ocean 104.7.