'Bama Bassin' Fun for Our Heroes

'Bama Bassin' Fun for Our Heroes
'Bama Bassin' Fun for Our Heroes

The generosity of Alabama’s outdoors community continues to amaze me. When it comes to sharing our great outdoors with our military – veterans, active duty and wounded warriors – Alabama shines.

A perfect example of the community working together to treat our veterans and active military to Alabama’s abundant outdoors treasures occurred in Macon County when the A HERO Foundation put together a bass fishing weekend for the military, including Marines of all ages and from all parts of the country.

Joe Whatley of Montgomery and Capt. Lee Stuckey of the Marines Recruiting Station in Montgomery put together a deer hunting event last season, and it was such a success they decided to include other outdoors adventures.

“I sent an email out to about 150 of my friends asked for their help,” Whatley said. “Every one of them answered. Some of them were going to be out of town, but they offered us their place, or money, or food or services. We ended up with 21 boats with several celebrities and TV and radio hosts. We wound up with 31 veterans, primarily wounded veterans who have been in the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and Desert Storm. It’s just been a great community gathering. We’ve had a lot of our neighbors out in the country. We fished three different lakes and are having a great time.


“Everybody likes to have a reward. People want to see a reward for their hard work. The reward I get is when I see one of these veterans grinning from ear to ear because they just caught a fish or they had a great time riding in a boat or riding in the country on a four-wheeler. They’re doing things they’ve never done.”


The foundation is now planning at least four events a year: a deer hunt, turkey hunt, freshwater fishing and saltwater fishing. When word got around about the hunting events in Macon County, Whatley began to get invitations from hunting lodges all around the state.

“The deer event in January is going to be based in Macon County, but we’ve got lodges that have offered their places in the Alexander City area, one at Enterprise and one just east of Dothan,” Whatley said. “These are folks who have come up and had a good time. They’ve gone home and told friends about it. The friends have called and said they wanted to be part of it. They said, ‘We want to help. What can we do?’ You see the landowners and lodge owners having just as much fun as the veterans.”

Master Sgt. Jerry Mills of the Marine Corps Recruiting Station in Montgomery unhooks a fire-tail worm from a nice bass during the event.

Whatley said a saltwater fishing event is in the planning stages. Several charter boat captains from Orange Beach and Pensacola have offered their boats to take the veterans fishing. He said they hope to schedule it during the 2012 red snapper season.

Whatley said he and Stuckey try to reach out to veterans of all ages to participate in the foundation’s events for obvious reasons.


“I think we had one veteran who was on Iwo Jima and a few who had been in Korea,” Whatley said. “We’ve had some with some pretty serious injuries they’ve overcome. Then we have the 18- and 19-year-olds who are suffering from a variety of injuries. This gives the older veterans a chance to share their experiences of how to lead great lives with the young guys who have just come back from a life-changing event.”

Greg Vinson, the professional bass angler from Wetumpka who is fishing the Bassmaster Elite series, said Rick Redmon of Venture Outdoors TV let him know about the event and he cleared his schedule.

“I did my first Wounded Warriors event back during the summer at the Bassmaster All-Star event,” Vinson said. “That was an awesome event for me. When they asked about doing this, I didn’t think twice about it.


“I know I’m really fortunate to do what I do for a living. To think that people look up to me for what I do is pretty humbling. The biggest thing for me, this is a way for me to come out and say, ‘Thanks,’ to the ones serving now, the ones who have been injured and our other veterans. I know that what I do for a living wouldn’t be possible without the sacrifices these people have made. It’s a real treat for me, and I think I may get more out of it than they do in the end. To get out and share my fishing experience with these guys, who are able to escape what they’ve been going through, is a real special event for me.”

Bill Bonner, a 20-year Marine Corps veteran, digs a big bass out of the livewell while fishing with pro Greg Vinson of Wetumpka.

Vinson had 80-year-old Bill Bonner in the boat with him last Saturday. Bonner, who now lives in Wetumpka, served in both the Korean and Vietnam wars as a 20-year Marine Corps veteran.

“I tell you, I couldn’t believe it when Mr. Bonner told me how old he was,” Vinson said. “You know when I fish, I cover the water pretty extensively. I don’t leave much behind. But Mr. Bonner was right there with me. He was cleaning up anything I left behind.”

Despite his “Bigfish” nickname, Stephen Bass, a mixed martial arts fighter who is one of the stars in Ultimate Fighter Season 14, really couldn’t offer a great deal of fishing advice to the veterans, but that didn’t deter him from offering his enthusiastic support.

“It’s a really big deal for me to contribute to this event for these guys,” Bass said. “It may just be helping them have a good time by having a good time with them. I was very fortunate to get the call to help out. I think it’s a great thing for us to give back to these Marines who have given so much for us already. It’s really a big honor to be asked to be here.”

Stuckey said his goal is to raise awareness of the sacrifices made by those who serve in the military and everyone connected.

“It’s not just about one big event a year,” Stuckey said. “It’s about every single day. It’s about the sacrifices these guys make when they’re injured, being away from their families, and those sacrifices are worth a ‘thank you.’ It can be something like taking them to lunch or bowling or fishing, whatever. You can never tell a service member ‘thank you’ enough.

One of the active-duty Marines at the event was Sgt. Brandon Didde, who is stationed in California. Didde enlisted in 2001, went through the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and fought in Fallujah in 2004. He suffered concussions and a traumatic brain injury from IEDs (improvised explosive devices). When his parents passed away in 2007, Didde got out of the Marines for a year-and-a-half. He soon realized what was now important.

“I got back in in 2009 and served in Afghanistan in 2010,” Didde said. “I just missed the Marine Corps. I missed the brotherhood. I was kind of lost without my brothers. It’s a whole different world. I need them around.

“These type events help us out a lot. You get out of the monotony of working every day as an infantry Marine. It’s good to get a break and have some fun.”

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

MLF BPT angler and former Classic champ Casey Ashley has been with Costa del Mar sunglasses his whole career. At ICAST 2019, he shows OSG writer Lynn Burkhead some new products and talks how to pick the right lens color for the water.

13 Fishing Inception SZ

13 Fishing Inception SZ

Florida angling pro Jessie Mizell knows that the saltwater found in Sunshine State coastal fisheries can wreak havoc on even the best fishing gear. But with 13 Fishing's new feature laden Inception SZ saltwater baitcasting reel, tackling inshore and light tackle saltwater game fish just got a whole lot easier!

Minn Kota Riptide Terrova Saltwater Trolling Motor

Minn Kota Riptide Terrova Saltwater Trolling Motor

Minn Kota's Brad Henry shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead that there's much to like in the new Minn Kota Riptide Terrova saltwater trolling motor that comes with I-Pilot and an 87-inch shaft.

Abu Garcia Virtual Rod with Bluetooth

Abu Garcia Virtual Rod with Bluetooth

Pure Fishing's Andrew Wheeler tells Outdoor Sportsman Group writer Lynn Burkhead all about the brand new Abu Garcia Virtual rod that integrates Bluetooth technology through a free ANGLR smartphone app.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Unless you live in Antarctica, the only continent they aren't known to inhabit, there is a species Catfish

10 Biggest Catfish World Records of All Time

Jack Vitek - December 08, 2014

Unless you live in Antarctica, the only continent they aren't known to inhabit, there is a...

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews of smelly ingredients often used to catch catfish. Catfish

How To Make Your Own Catfish Dough Bait

Keith Sutton - August 04, 2015

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews...

Here are the 10 most common spinning and baitcaster reel performance problems and how to fix them. Fishing How-To

10 Most Common Reel Performance Problems

Anietra Hamper

Here are the 10 most common spinning and baitcaster reel performance problems and how to fix...

From Monksville Reservoir to Union Lake, plus five other picks, here's where you'll find the Garden State's hottest bass fishing. Destinations

7 Best Bets for New Jersey Bass

J.B. Kasper - October 04, 2010

From Monksville Reservoir to Union Lake, plus five other picks, here's where you'll find the...

See More Trending Articles

More Stories

Could the northern stretches of the Lone Star State one day rival the south for big-buck supremacy? Whitetail

The Next ‘Big Tex' for Trophy Bucks?

Jordan Michaels - October 18, 2019

Could the northern stretches of the Lone Star State one day rival the south for big-buck...

Where and how some of the state's best archery bucks were killed last season. Whitetail

Oklahoma's Big Archery Bucks of 2018

Kelly Bostian

Where and how some of the state's best archery bucks were killed last season.

Various companies show appreciation to frontline defense – healthcare professionals – against the pandemic with special giveaway. News

Outdoors Industry Honoring Healthcare Heroes: COVID-19

April 27, 2020

Various companies show appreciation to frontline defense – healthcare professionals – against...

The The eastern Georgia lake may be best known for its bass, but anglers will find more trophies in these waters than just largemouths. Georgia lake may be best known for its bass, but anglers will find more trophies in these waters than just largemouths. Fishing

Chase a Mixed-Bag Bite at Lake Oconee

Larry Larsen - April 28, 2020

The The eastern Georgia lake may be best known for its bass, but anglers will find more...

See More Stories

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now