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Community members line Main Street to give veterans a hometown welcome and show honor as they pass through downtown Monroe City.

On Sunday June 2, the Fishing for Freedom, rode through town at approximately 1:30 p.m. There were an estimated 40 trucks pulling boats. Each driver had volunteered to take a wounded veteran fishing in honor of their service to the country. The veterans and boaters were escorted by the Monroe City Fire Department through town. Volunteer Justin Goodwin, of Perry, explained, “The high water and difficulty of the lake caused some bass fisherman to leave early. There was approximately 200 boats Sunday morning on the Mark Twain Lake who entered the tournament.”

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Jackie Buckman waves the flag as the Fishing for Freedom veterans are escorted through town.

Community members gathered all along Main Street waving flags and clapping as the parade of motorcycles and boats passed through town. The group was escorted by the Missouri Highway Patrol, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, the Monroe City Police Department, and the Monroe City Fire Department.

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Pictured above: Hometown Volunteers hand out free popcorn and water to the public who came to show support to the Fishing for Freedom veterans.

Prior to their arrival, Hometown Volunteers were at the Macon-Atlanta Bank Parking Lot passing out free popcorn and water, along with The Lake Gazette passing out free American Flags for people to wave. Also, present, was Richard Hagan, playing patriotic music for all to enjoy.

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Children held signs and waved flags as the veterans passed through town.

The 2019 Fishing for Freedom was held on May 31-June 2 in Quincy, IL. The Fishing for Freedom event is held every year on the first weekend in June (Friday - Sunday) on the Mighty Mississippi and the Mark Twain Lake. Although this year, the Fishing for Freedom tournament had to make other arrangements due to the high water and flooding of the Mississippi River.

Participants were rerouted to get on the river in Keokuk, IA and at the Indian Creek boat ramp.

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Several community members lined the streets waiting for the Fishing for Freedom veteran boaters to arrive in town.

Goodwin, of Perry, shared, “Fishing for bass and crappie was awful due to the high waters and flooding, although catfishing was great.” Goodwin explained, “I took Veteran Steven Dixon, of Nashville, TN out on the lake to participate in the crappie tournament,” adding, “We placed second in the Crappie Division.”

This is Goodwin’s third year volunteering in the tournament. He shared being a former money tournament fisherman, stating, “People have become greedy and taken the fun out of tournaments by being too competitive.” “I like helping with the Fishing for Freedom Tournament. It’s for the better good, a non-profit tournament, making new friends and meeting new people. People can be themselves and have fun.”

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Hometown Veteran Jeremy Beaver shared looking forward to the tournament each year, stating, “This is the only time several of us get to see other veterans and have a chance to visit,” adding, “I appreciate the time volunteers take out of their schedule to make this weekend possible.” Beaver placed second in the Catfish Division during the tournament while fishing on the Mississippi.

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Veterans attend the event from all over the nation.  Inspired by the Army Bass Anglers, and fishing guides to take Warriors out for a day of tournament bass fishing. With assistance from a network of anglers throughout the region and caring local and corporate sponsors. Trophies were awarded for the top teams and all participating warriors received tackle packets.

Fishing for Freedom is modeled from similar events that are occurring across the nation. It is a no entry fee bass, catfish and crappie tournament that pairs professional anglers, avid tournament fishermen, and fishing guides with the Warriors (Active Military and Veterans) in a buddy bass tournament format on a local fishery. The purpose of the event is to let the American Heroes know how much we appreciate their service and sacrifice and assist in their continued rehabilitation and well-being.

By their very nature, outdoor recreational activities are extremely therapeutic and have been shown through recent examples to make a difference in the Warrior’s lives. Although angling is only one of those outdoor activities, it is one that can help the returning Heroes escape the hardships of combat deployments and begin the process of assimilation back into to everyday life.

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