Georgia SCI Hosts Inaugural Wounded Veterans ‘Cast & Blast’ Event At Lake Oconee
The Georgia Chapter of Safari Club International (SCI) and Glasslined Technologies, Inc. hosted 14 Purple Heart recipients during its inaugural Wounded Veterans ‘Cast and Blast’ event at the beautiful Lake Oconee from Sept. 18-20. This inaugural event provided veterans—including their family members or guests, an all-expenses-paid retreat—allowing them to rest, relax and experience Lake Oconee, including accommodations, meals, fishing and clay shooting. Similar events have been hosted by Georgia SCI at other locations for more than a decade.
Veterans and their guests enjoyed an afternoon of fishing on Lake Oconee and shooting clays at Old Hudson Plantation, followed by an evening kick-off dinner at The Lodge on Lake Oconee. It didn’t go unnoticed that American flags were placed in the area with a follow-up introduction by Georgia SCI and Glasslined Technologies’ leadership, CEO James Lakeman, to the veterans thanking them for their service and sacrifice.
Alarm clocks sounded early the next day as the veterans set out on four boats to fish Lake Oconee. The Georgia Chapter of SCI 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 event. The first few fish were caught almost immediately, and the action remained steady as anglers reeled in fish over the next several hours. Following a fantastic morning of fishing with some of Lake Oconee’s best captains, veterans and volunteers ate lunch and were given the remainder of the afternoon to relax prior to the evening’s festivities.
Late that afternoon, more than 40 guests, including several South Vietnamese combat veterans, their family members and guests, Georgia SCI volunteers, Glasslined Technologies’ leadership, and dignitaries boarded the Spirit of Oconee, a 39-foot double decker houseboat owned by Reynolds Lake Oconee. Cruise-goers said the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by the invocation before starting the three-hour dinner cruise. Two retired U.S. Marines supplied entertainment throughout the dinner cruise. Vietnamese guests joining the dinner cruise brought a custom cake for the event and guest enjoyment. The cake was an outstanding addition to the feeling of the event and patriotism of all on board. It showed an American soldier at the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C., in prayer with his hand on the Wall and the American and Vietnamese flags in the background. Those aboard enjoyed beautiful weather along with a stellar sunset, and the camaraderie continued throughout the night.
Nearing the end of the evening, a South Vietnamese veteran 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. In addition to the storytelling, there was much discussion between the American veterans and the South Vietnamese veterans about their combat experiences. This immensely powerful interaction left attendees subdued and teary-eyed.
Awards were generously provided by Bass Pro Shops, Walmart and Ace Hardware. They were presented to several of the anglers from the day’s fishing outing and clay shooting competition. The common theme throughout the night was a message of sincere thanks and gratitude to the veterans for their service to our great country. One special guest, a retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General, commented to the guest on board that he was so proud of the event and the service and sacrifice of all who committed themselves to support of our great country.
“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 recurring message I receive from them is that we are indeed helping and making a difference in people’s lives. It’s incredibly powerful.”
“Our Cast and Blast event is all about thanking these heroes for their sacrifice and service,” said sponsor James Lakeman, CEO of Glasslined Technologies. “We’re honored to host this special group and provide an opportunity to connect with nature.”
Numerous wounded veterans commented that these events actually change their lives because they witness the love and support from other Americans in a ‘real’ way and in real time. We had multiple American wounded veterans engage in discussion of what these efforts mean to them. One explained that this is the first ‘real’ example of American support he has seen over the years. He had three tours in Vietnam and received two Purple Hearts, with much physical damage still causing problems and pain to this day. These comments were appreciated by all in attendance, causing some to express an interest in volunteering for future veteran-related events.
Throughout the years, the Georgia Chapter of SCI has touched more than 1,050 active-duty military and veterans through its humanitarian efforts and events geared toward getting our service members outdoors.
The event was made possible by numerous volunteers and support from Georgia SCI, Keenan Nottingham and other Lake Oconee fishing guides, Bass Pro Shops, Glasslined Technologies and CEO James Lakeman, Ace Hardware, Walmart, Chick-fil-A, The Lodge on Lake Oconee, Publix and our hero service members.
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