Veterans event looks to provide peace on the water


Veterans will get the chance to receive some free fishing and paddling lessons on Saturday at the first-time Veterans on the Susquehanna event in the Wrightsville area.

"We'll show 'em how to fly fish," said B.J. Small, a regional coordinator for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which is one of the organizations behind the outing. "We want to do what we can for veterans."

The day of free lessons, starting at 3 p.m., will wrap up with a dinner at 7 p.m. with an open bar and live music. Registration closed Wednesday, with 75 people signed up, according to Small.

Sgt. Devin Winard, who served with the Pennsylvania National Guard in Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004, is part of Heroes on the Water, a national organization that aims "to help warriors relax, rehabilitate and reintegrate through kayak fishing and the outdoors," according to its website. Winard is part of the central Pennsylvania chapter, which, along with Trout Unlimited, is also behind the event, which also is meant to raise awareness about keeping the river clean.

He also works as an instructor for Shank's Mare Outfitters, which will be giving the lessons.

Therapeutic: Winard finds the water to be peaceful, a good way to "kinda separate yourself" from the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life.

"It's intended to be a therapeutic thing," he said. "I personally do it outside the event as well."

In past Heroes on the Water events, many of the veterans coming out to the event haven't have a lot of experience on the water and haven't previously fished a whole lot.

That's great, Winard said — this event will be a good introduction to the water. It hopefully will persuade vets to come out again and participate in other Heroes on the Water events, he said.

"That's one of our struggles as an organization," he said: getting people to show up.

But the veterans who come out normally have a good time, he said.

"The ones who come out really seem to love it," he said.

— Reach Sean Cotter at