Wisconsin TU Veterans Service Partnership Leaves Lasting Impression

This past August, nine military families gathered for an adventure filled week at Camp American Legion near Minocqua, WI. Wisconsin TU volunteers (representing 4 different TU Chapters) provided the expertise on “fly fishing day”, held August 17. The Camp offered active troops, National Guard, Reservists, and Veterans the opportunity to reconnect with reintegrate with their families in a low stress environment situated in the heart of Wisconsin’s famed “Northwoods”.

This retreat was the brainchild of Lynn Marilla, a TU volunteer in her home state of North Carolina and founder and “Chief Executive Camper” of Eagle Rock Camp (ERC) – a non-profit organization serving military families in NC. According to their website, ERC “reconnects military families at holistic retreats that are therapeutic, build spiritual resiliency, and strengthen family bonds”.

When Lynn, a Michigan native, heard about Camp American Legion (offering lodging, meals, and recreation opportunities to Wisconsin’s military families on the shores of Big Carr Lake), she immediately went to work on setting up a retreat. Nine families, consisting of 18 adults and 26 kids, participated in the 4 day event. Talking with Dave Kumlien, Coordinator of TU’s Veterans Service Partnership, Lynn learned of WI TU’s VSP program and reached out to Wisconsin TU and asked us to lead fly fishing and fly tying activities on day 3.

We started the morning working with the children while the adults were doing other activities. The retreats often break up the adults and kids for a period of time during the day. This creates more family bonding opportunities during mealtime and in the evenings where everyone can come together and share their daily experiences.

Terry Cummings and Dave Tipple (Northwoods TU) and Renee Sagal (Aldo Leopold TU) set up fly tying stations for the kids in the morning. WITU Education Chair Bob Haase provided the tying material kits with everything needed to tie simple panfish flies. Bright colored foam, chenille, and hackle quickly adorned the hooks. Thanks to Northwoods TU for letting us use their fly tying vices and tools. Next the kids brought their flies down to the shores of the lake hoping to get a bass or bluegills’ attention.

Once Lakeside, Bill Sherer (We Tie It Fly Shop in Boulder Junction) gave the kids a brief casting lesson. Soon it was time to give the new flies a try and volunteers Henry Kanemoto and Chuck Sauer (both of WI River Valley TU), Laura MacFarland (Northwoods TU), Jared Sagal (Aldo Leopold TU), and Mike Kuhr (SEWTU) assisted. High winds and stormy skies made casting a challenge, but the kids kept their composure and managed to land some small bluegills near shore. We’d like to thank Northwoods TU and Tina Murry of the WI Women’s Fly Fishing Clinics for providing the rod and reel outfits.

Volunteers and family members all gathered in the Lodge for lunch provided by the Camp. Afterwards it was family time, and it was great to see husbands, wives, and kids all lined up casting a line in the lake. Rainy weather brought the day to an early end, but the families all really enjoyed their time together on the water.

WI TU is proud to have been able to assist in serving these military families and we look forward to partnering with both Camp American Legion and Eagle Rock Camp on future retreats.

By Dave Kumliien.