SUWANEE, GA (July 12, 2023) – The Georgia Chapter of Safari Club International (SCI) hosted 31 purple heart recipients during its annual Wounded Veterans Fishing Weekend at Lake Lanier July 7-9. Georgia SCI has hosted the event for more than a decade, providing a full weekend of fishing and fun on Lake Lanier for wounded veterans and their guests. The three-day event, which has become a marquis event for Georgia SCI, is an opportunity for veterans, including their family members or guests, to enjoy an all-expenses-paid weekend of meals, accommodations, and fishing.
Veterans and their guests were welcomed to a Friday-evening kick-off dinner at Rooster’s Café, where upon entrance, they were greeted with a standing ovation from restaurant customers and staff. An amazing meal ensued, and veterans and volunteers were given the opportunity to get to know each other. It didn’t go unnoticed that American Flags were placed on tables and custom placemats at each dinner setting with signatures from staff and patrons along with a special note to each veteran thanking them for their service and sacrifice.
Alarm clocks sounded early Saturday as the veterans set out for an 11-boat fishing tournament on Lake Lanier. The Georgia Chapter supplied sunscreen, drinks, and snacks for the anglers as they headed out to fish. Friendly competition waged, and the anglers were vying for several awards to be presented later in the evening. The first few fish were caught almost immediately as anglers were vying for those fishing awards. The action included steadily reeling in striped bass, spotted bass, and catfish over the next several hours. Following a fantastic morning of fishing with some of Lake Lanier’s best captains, veterans and volunteers ate lunch and were given the remainder of the afternoon to relax prior to the evening’s events.
Later that afternoon, more than 100 guests, including several South Vietnamese combat veterans, their family members and guests, Georgia SCI volunteers, and dignitaries boarded the Amistad, a 100-foot houseboat owned by Tommy and Chantal Bagwell. Cruise-goers said the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by the invocation before casting off the dock to start the three-hour dinner cruise. Participants enjoyed the beautiful weather along with a stellar sunset and the camaraderie continued throughout the night.
Awards, generously provided by Bass Pro Shops, were presented to several of the anglers from the day’s fishing tournament, and participants heard from numerous dignitaries. The common theme throughout the night was a message of sincere thanks and gratitude to the veterans for their service to our great country.
Nearing the end of the evening, participants were introduced to one South Vietnamese veteran who detailed his experience being one of the last Vietnamese to board the last helicopter leaving Vietnam on the last day of the War. He mentioned that had he missed this helicopter, he would have been killed. Additionally, there was much discussion between the American veterans and the South Vietnamese veterans about their combat experiences even though they didn’t know each other back then… but they do now. This very powerful interaction left attendees quiet and teary-eyed.
“The Georgia Chapter of SCI is committed to supporting our men and women in uniform and this is a way for us to show our appreciation,” said Dick Caillouet, a Vietnam Veteran, and Vice President and Chairman of Wounded Veterans Events for Georgia SCI. “We want to show these veterans and their families that we care for them. One consistent message I receive from them is that we are indeed helping and changing people’s lives. It’s incredibly powerful.”
Throughout the years, the Georgia Chapter of SCI has touched more than 1,000 active-duty military and veterans through its humanitarian efforts and events geared towards getting our service members outdoors.
The event was made possible by numerous volunteers and support from Georgia SCI, Ron Mullins of The Striper Experience and other Lake Lanier Fishing Guides, The Tommy Bagwell Family, Coppersmith Global Logistics, Bass Pro Shops, Holiday Inn Express of Cumming, GA, and our hero service members.