Normally seen in slightly different attire — waders, boots, and vests, with fly rods in hand — many TU supporters met up at Trout Unlimited's second annual Veterans Service Program (VSP) dinner on March 1, 2012, at the office of Arnold&Porter, LLP, to celebrate and support wounded servicemen and women.
As the national coordinator for the Veterans Service Program (VSP), Alan Folger knows that to be able to get out on the trout streams with the veterans we care so much about, from time to time we have to comb our hair and look presentable to the donors that fund the program and make it successful.
From the presentation of the colors and a beautiful rendition of our national anthem to the silent auction and raffle to the superb meal and the heartfelt words of TU CEO Chris Wood and the event's co-sponsors Adm. Dennis Blair (former Director of National Intelligence and U.S. Navy-Retired) and Secretary Gordon England (former Deputy Secretary of Defense and former Secretary of the Navy), the evening and the funds raised exceeded everyone's expectations.
Retired Army Captain Ferris Butler gave the keynote address. In August of 2006 Ferris' 2nd BCT 10th Mountain Division deployed to southern Iraq, and on December 21st his vehicle activated an IED. He sustained extensive lower leg and foot fractures, as well as soft tissue, nerve, and muscle damage. Ferris spent two years at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and after 52 surgeries he made the difficult decision to amputate both legs and move forward with his recovery on prosthetics. Ferris has committed himself to turning tragedy to triumph by seizing the opportunities that Project Healing Waters and TU volunteers have provided.
With the support of the Telos Corporation, the Goyanes Family Foundation, and many individual donors, the VSP is thriving. The VSP is a nation-wide effort to engage Trout Unlimited's 400 chapters and 140,000 members in the good work of bringing rehabilitation, healing, and hope to our nation's recovering soldiers and disabled veterans. TU has been working with partner organizations such as Project Healing Waters (PHW) and others that use fishing and conservation as a way for wounded veterans to heal and rehabilitate, and what began with 31 chapters has today grown to include greater than 60 TU chapters, that have collectively donated in excess of 9,000 volunteer hours to 1,800 wounded veterans.
The Washington, D.C. dinner makes this work possible in many ways. For more information on the Veterans Service Program, please contact Alan Folger . We hope to see you at the dinner next year!