Governor Martin O'Malley announced the creation of the Recreational Outreach Project for Veterans and its new website, as part of Maryland's commitment to members of our armed forces. The program, administered by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), provides veterans and their families with unique opportunities to enjoy the rich natural habitats of Maryland, including the Chesapeake Bay, coastal waters and park lands.
"We are very pleased to have the opportunity to give something back to our veterans, who so courageously serve on our behalf - in this case, a day of fishing on our beautiful Chesapeake Bay," said Governor O'Malley. "In addition to planned recreation, our commitment extends to veterans by promoting employment, education and training through the 'Warrior to Worker' initiative. Both of these programs provide our soldiers with the resources necessary for an easier transition from combat back into their communities."
DNR Fisheries Service employee and Army veteran Dennis Robinson is coordinating 35 fall fishing expeditions for veterans with Maryland Charter Boat captains, the state's Chesapeake Bay Ambassadors. To date there have been four fishing trips with more scheduled on October 23, 29 and 30, weather permitting. The recreational outreach project will eventually expand within DNR to the Maryland Park Service, Wildlife & Heritage Service and beyond. A new website offers information on the program, photographs and comments from veteran participants.
"These trips not only give us a chance to thank our returning soldiers in a small way," said DNR Secretary John R. Griffin. "Through a unique partnership, we are also supporting the Bay's important charter boat industry. The program is benefitting everyone involved."
"My wife joined me and some friends from the base. This was my first time fishing in anything other than a pond so I had no idea what to expect," said Staff Sergeant Sean L. Durgin of Middle River, a veteran with the Maryland National Air Guard. "I can't believe what a rush it was catching those blue fish. Even though we only got a couple small rockfish, I am definitely 'hooked' on fishing in the Bay. We all had a great time. Thank you DNR for giving us the opportunity."
"It was a great day to be on the Bay, making lasting memories for me and my daughter," said Senior Master Sergeant Stan Bembenek of Joppa, with the 175th Wing, Maryland Air National Guard.
Expeditions are coordinated by DNR and the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs (MDVA) through: Fort Meade Warrior Transition Unit, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Maryland National Guard, Baltimore Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Center, Forbes Hall Veterans Home and veterans groups at 15 colleges and universities in the State.
"Connecting Maryland's veterans and veterans' groups with our partners at the Department of Natural Resources is essential to assuring veterans and their families can engage in and enjoy our state's vast recreational resources," said Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Edward Chow, Jr. "We are delighted to offer these fishing trips to our veterans and service members so they may enjoy exploring Maryland's natural environment."
"As a veteran myself, I can't say enough about how privileged I feel to be offering these charter boat expeditions to my fellow service-members," said Robinson. "Recreational experiences like these say a lot about our State's commitment to veterans, not only as a way for us to say 'thank you' to our men and women in uniform, but also as a vehicle for introducing them to the amazing natural-resource based opportunities we have here in Maryland."
Visit the Veterans Project website at www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/veterans/.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is the state agency responsible for providing natural and living resource-related services to citizens and visitors. DNR manages nearly one-half million acres of public lands and 17,000 miles of waterways, along with Maryland's forests, fisheries and wildlife for maximum environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. A national leader in land conservation, DNR-managed parks and natural, historic and cultural resources attract 11 million visitors annually. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority. Learn more at www.dnr.maryland.gov