This week, I sat down with Arthur Johnson, Brian Quinlan, and Patrick Goldsmith to talk about their non-profit organization Operation Reel Heroes. Their passion for our veteran community knows no bounds. The organization is comprised of volunteers from the Cape Cod and Long Island areas who generously provide their boats and fishing equipment for a day on the water with United States Veterans and their families. The guys created the organization in 2015 on Cape Cod and recently expanded it to Long Island after years of success. Working closely with the Wounded Warrior Project, they have helped reel in a fish for hundreds of veterans in need! Helping our veterans heal from the mental and physical injuries of the war.
Built by the Bonfire
Many great companies have been built near the flickering flame of a campfire. It's the primal nature of a fire that makes us take a moment to think and ponder the important things in life. This was no exception for Arthur when he set out on a mission to take wounded warriors out fishing.
"Six years or seven years ago, we were all sitting around a campfire and going, ‘Well, you know, what, why don't we take some veterans fishing?’ and we originally started to kind of kick it around and think, well, let's take some local people and, you know, we'll get a couple of buddies that have a couple of boats together and go fishing. It kind of snowballed into a little bit more of a bigger event than we ever imagined. One guy led to another, and then before, you know it, we have a waiting list of boats that want to be involved with us. For us, it was easy to give a weekend or give a day or give whatever we needed to do to make the event happen."
The Young Buck
Patrick, the youngest guy in the trio, is a Massachusetts Maritime Grad who works on a ship full-time, when he is not out at sea devotes his time to serving those that have served us! He also owns an apparel brand dedicated to the maritime industry (more to come on that in a future podcast episode). His involvement with Operation Reel Heroes started when the guys decided to expand the program to Long Island and the rest is history.
"I cold-called them and said, I'm a cadet at Mass Maritime. I don't know what exactly I can offer. I don't have a boat, but I do live up on Cape Cod, and being a cadet at mass maritime have access to possibly getting some boats through them. So if I were able to get one, would I be able to participate? I was able to go through them to utilize some of the boats that Mass Maritime owned for that use. So they tossed me the keys to a 28 foot Mako and in 2016, and it's kind of just spiraled from there."
More than Just Fishing
The old saying, “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for life” certainly applies to the efforts made by the volunteers of Operation Reel Heroes. The yearly event is about more than catching fish, It is about teaching these wounded warriors that the ocean is a place of peace and healing. The wounded vets are able to let their guard down and share a fun weekend with other like-minded people.
"We try to make it casual and all about fishing and getting to know, uh, the veterans and their guests. At the end of the day, we troll down the river a little bit, and it gets a little more relaxed and, you know, it gets a little more social and hearing their personal stories of why they chose to serve, what their experience was, and what prompted them to get involved in the Wounded Warrior Project. The difference-maker for me are those conversations; getting to the core of who these people are and why they make the decisions they do is an extremely humbling experience."
Service looks different for everyone, from taking an oath and joining the military to buying a stranger a cup of coffee. Arthur, Brian, and Patrick chose to give back to the brave men and women who served our great nation by gathering community members and veterans to share in an activity they all love. There is no doubt that their efforts are going farther than just reeling in a fish. These guys have gone to weddings, made lifelong friendships, and built an organization that genuinely cares about our military members.
Thank you for sitting down with me this week and for reminding us that it's important to serve, giving back to a community that could use some help in whatever way possible. Whether your form of service is your voice, wallet, or sweat, making a sacrifice for someone else is something that we should all practice daily.
How to Support
If you or someone you know would like to get involved with Operation Reel Heroes, head on over to their website to donate or reach out with inquiries. You can also check them out on social media and follow along with Long Island and Cape Cod's events. If you want to listen to the full story, tune in to episode #048 of the Along the Keel Podcast.