Disabled veterans enjoy the camaraderie of annual fishing trip in Quincy, Mass.
By JOE DIFAZIO | The Patriot Ledger, Quincy, Mass. | Published: July 10, 2019
QUINCY, Mass. (Tribune News Service) — Bob Michalski of Weymouth sat in a chair in the beaming sun Wednesday morning on the back of a boat docked at Quincy Yacht Club, fishing rod in hand, ready to see what he could catch in Quincy Bay. But for Michalski, the Harvey's Salt Water Fishing Club's Annual Fishing Trip for disabled veterans isn't just about trying to reel fish in, it's about being around other veterans, too.
"I can't talk military with my wife, you need somebody who has been through it," Michalski said. "It's camaraderie."
Michalski, 74, is a U.S. Navy veteran who served in the Vietnam War. He said that coming back from his service was difficult because national sentiment against the war trickled down against the soldiers who served. Outings like the fishing trip, he said, made him feel appreciated and lets him meet other veterans. Michalski has been coming to the trip for three years.
This year, the 63rd outing, saw about 140 veterans show up, according to Michael Cheney, one of the event's main organizers.
"For some disabled veterans this is the only day they'll get out of the hospital, and for others the only chance in a year to get out on the water," Cheney said. "They've served us so we're happy to serve them."
Navy veteran Rich Hynes, of Cohasset sat next to Michalski and said that he never fishes, and came just to have some fun. It was his first outing.
The two-hour fishing event capped off with a lunch. About 125 volunteers worked to put the outing together, Cheney said.
The tradition began in 1956 when a group of Houghs Neck neighbors got the idea to treat their local disabled WWI and WWII veterans to a day on the seas. That first year was small — only about a dozen or so veterans went out to fish, but over the years organizers said the annual fishing trip has grown in popularity.
Albert Sheehan, of Brockton, a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War said that the outing was all about giving veterans a good day.
"It's tough for them to get a good day and seeing them happy makes me feel good," Sheehan said.
Wilfred Lemieux, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam war came to Quincy all the way from Belchertown to fish. He said that outings like Wednesday's help him deal with his post-traumatic stress disorder.
"With my PTSD I've been kind of house-bound," Lemieux said at 10 a.m. before the boats set sail. "I have no idea what we're fishing for but we're going to have fun today."
Out on the water Lemieux had a grin on his face as music played on his boat and he talked with the veterans around him.