Tuesday, June 18, 2013
For the six fishermen who shared in catching some two dozen stripers in the Kennebec River on Thursday, the outing was the chance to bond with like-minded veterans.
For Paul House, who invited them on the free guided fishing trip, the outing was a new step for the outdoor service he created for those who serve.
And for Forrest Faulkingham, the Maine Association of Charterboat Captains president who rallied the guides who volunteered, the fishing trip for soldiers is something they will do again.
"We are going to make this an annual event. Hopefully, it will get more people doing this. We can make the sacrifice when some of them have made the ultimate sacrifice," said Faulkingham, as the fishing party ate beside the river at the Kennebec Tavern.
The day trip was a smaller version of the kinds of fishing and hunting trips House has organized since 2010, outdoor gatherings for servicemen and women, both veterans and those in active duty.
After he and his wife, Deanna, lost their son Joel in 2007 in the Iraq War, they created "House in the Woods," a nonprofit that organizes outdoor trips for servicemen and women to help them heal in nature.
House said the trips are aimed at allowing the soldiers to bond, share stories, and be together outdoors. He said he does very little other than organize the trips by raising money and finding outdoor outfits that donate to the cause.
Since the program began in May 2010, it has taken on a life of its own.
"At first we had to ask organizations to send us veterans. Now they're calling us. And they go and tell their buddies. It's just blooming beyond belief," House said.
It is based on a simple approach, he said, and guiding outfits have bought in, donating gear, time and lodging at camps from Oxbow to Casco Bay.
There are no counselors, no group discussions, and no cost. The servicemen and women show up and spend time together, and within that supportive group they have the chance to discuss the troubles left from war that they share, and to do so in their own time, in their own way.
Based on how many outdoor outfits are donating to the program, House in the Woods will continue, House said. But at this point, he doesn't have time to add more multiday trips. And House refuses to let the group sizes get too big.
As it is, he already has eight multiday trips planned to take a total of 70 soldiers on outdoor adventures, such as hunts for moose, bear, partridge and turkey.
But Thursday's fishing trip was a new approach, a single-day outing made possible with one overnight, which was donated by the Hampton Inn in Bath.
Faulkingham said finding three other guides to donate their service took no time at all. Jason Farris, Johan Brouwer, and Hank DeRuiter stepped up right away.
As House stood Thursday beside the Kennebec River, he reflected on how his dream of two years ago has moved forward.
"(At first) the IRS said we had to have counselors to be a nonprofit. I didn't want councilors. I wanted them to be able to just talk to each other. I didn't want any pressure. Councilors are good, and there is a time and place for that. We just wanted a simple program to give them the opportunity to meet each other. The rest takes care of itself," House said.
Faulkingham is not surprised at how easy it was for him to line up the fishing trip for the program. He said it is an example of the kind of gratitude and generosity people want to share today.
"After a fishing trip in Florida I was passing through (JFK) airport and saw a serviceman sitting having dinner. I was in the Air National Guard in Texas in 1968. So I went up to the counter and asked to pay for his meal. And the manager said, 'You're too late. Someone already did.' You see that a lot in restaurants now. And they deserve our support," Faulkingham said.
Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at: