[caption id="attachment_4508" align="aligncenter" width="576" caption="Sgt. Larry Thomas, U.S. Army Reserves, Arizona, is the first to sign the Operations Outdoors USA boat as Jarrett Edwards looks on. Thomas makes his 2nd deployment to Iraq in June. The boat makes its first show appearance at Denver\'s ISE sports show Jan. 6 - 9, 2011. "][/caption]
In the true spirit of the Christmas season, a 31-year-old Arizona man with a second chance at life is living the belief that it is better to give than to receive. America's soldiers of all generations are the focus of his benevolence.
Jarrett Edwards survived a bout with Hodgkin's Lymphoma stage 2B cancer in 2005 and emerged a man on a mission. While supportive of cancer patients ever since, it is United States service men and women, and their families, who really caught his attention during recovery.
"Think back five years and you can imagine how I found myself watching from my hospital bed the countless hours of television coverage of our military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan at the time," Edwards explained. "I thought how brave of them to fight for my freedom, our freedom, by their own choice of service. My wife Rebecca and I decided then we were going to do something out of respect for them. Thanks to many people over the past few months, our promise is now a reality."
As a result, in fall 2011, six armed services families will be awarded a week-long houseboating adventure as the Edwards' guests on Lake Powell, Ariz. Additionally, the Lone Survivor Foundation (LSF) will receive a fully rigged Phoenix bass boat that has been signed by thousands of military well-wishers for use on the foundation's Texas property for years of fishing fun.
Operation Outdoors USA, the name given the effort by the Edwards, is a multi-faceted program that is the couple's dream. All has been made possible by their own determination and unselfish commitment of time and money, and through their many like-minded connections in the outdoor industry of which Edwards has been a part for the past 15 years. He competed for nine years as a professional angler in the national Bassmaster tournament trail before partnering with his wife in their own high-definition video production company and serving as host of the Jarrett Edwards Outdoors TV show that airs nationally on the World Fishing Network.
"I promise, Operation Outdoors isn't about me, a political platform or a profitable business venture," he said. "In fact, Becca and I are going to great lengths to pay for the boat and our related travel and promotions for the program out of our own pockets. We've welcomed partnerships and donations, but not at the risk of commercializing the cause. Those who are helping us are doing so simply because they believe in the cause, and their participation does make it a bigger deal for our soldiers."
He went on to explain that Operation Outdoors USA is all about honoring and appreciating the many veterans and active duty of all branches of the U.S. military. Beginning in January, the specially wrapped boat and truck will be making appearance at a variety of venues, including the popular International Sportsmen's Expos and Fred Hall shows in the west, as well as at some military bases.
While on display, both the truck and the boat are available to be signed by all past and present military members and their families for all others to see and enjoy everywhere the Edwards go. It is the Edwards' wishes that once the boat is given to LSF, the signatures will serve as prominent reminders to all that the services of our military and the freedom they protect are not to be taken for granted.
Late in 2011, the wrapped boat will be presented to the LSF, a wellness initiative founded by Marcus Luttrell for the purpose of providing therapeutic and unique opportunities to optimize recovery and healing of our country's wounded warriors.
Luttrell, a retired Navy SEAL, survived a major Taliban ambush in 2005 in Afghanistan in which 19 special operations soldiers were killed. He went on to write a New York Times Best seller "Lone Survivor" and is now a highly popular motivational speaker. He founded the LSF to give back to his fellow soldiers.
"I vividly remember the crawler across the TV screen reporting the missing SEAL members back in 2005," said Edwards. "Then I picked up and read a copy of Lone Survivor at a later date. I put two and two together, realizing Luttrell's mission was what I had seen on television. I knew then that giving back to American soldiers was what I wanted to do."
The Edwards purchased the Phoenix boat and in the process of buying the motor for it, were surprised by Mercury donating the 250 horsepower Optimax Pro XS to go on it. That was followed by MotorGuide contributing a trolling motor and Lowrance providing all of the electronics.
"It made us feel really proud that our partners chose to donate without our asking," Edwards said. "They, too, said it was out of their appreciation for our troops."
The fully rigged Phoenix bass boat is valued at around $50,000 and considered a best-in-class fishing boat. The boat will be made available on the LSF property for use by those enrolled in the program's services.
As part of the Operation Outdoors effort, all who sign the boat will have the opportunity to nominate their favorite soldier by way of a three-minute video or 600-word essay with photos. Complete instructions and additional information can be found at the Operation Outdoors web site. Entries must be received by Oct. 1, 2011, and all eligible entries will be available for public voting on the web site on Oct. 30.
The top six in votes will receive the Lake Powell vacation on luxurious 75-foot houseboats, courtesy of ARAMARK - Lake Powell Resorts and Marinas, in May 2012. Several of Edwards' professional fishing and rodeo buddies have committed to joining the families for some fishing and water sports fun.
Also, throughout the year on Jarrett Edwards Outdoors, each episode will feature a three-minute segment from military families' submissions as part of the weekly programming. The houseboating excursion will also be filmed for an entire episode to air in 2012.
Operation Outdoors is designed to be an annual program with similar opportunities and benefits for participation each year. For more information about the program, visit www.JarrettEdwardsOutdoors.tv and click on the Operation Outdoors USA logo.
"Operation Outdoors USA is a sincere and legitimate program ... a simple way of me and Becca saying 'thank you' to the men and women who are serving or have served our country with grace and honor," Edwards said. "We look forward to shaking thousands of hands in this expression of thanks, beginning with the Denver ISE show, Jan. 6 - 9, 2011."
2011 Show Schedule for Operations Outdoors USA Truck/Boat Signing
Jan 6-9 International Sportsmen's Exposition* Denver, Colo.
Jan 20-23 International Sportsmen's Exposition* Sacramento, Calif.
Feb 24-27 International Sportsmen's Exposition* Phoenix, Ariz
Mar 17-20 International Sportsmen's Exposition* Salt Lake City, Utah
Mar 9-13 Fred Hall Boat Show Long Beach, Calif.
Mar 24-27 Fred Hall Boat Show Del Mar, Calif.
*Active and retired Military personnel receive free admission into ISE shows with proper military I.D.
About Operation Outdoors USA
Jarrett and Rebecca Edwards founded Operation Outdoors USA as a "soldier program thank-you," with the couple wanting to give back to those who have sacrificed so much for their country. The Edwards have chosen to lead by example in this small, humble way, and they are solely responsible for the funding of the program through their own savings, partnerships with industry relationships and donations.
About Lone Survivor Foundation
The Lone Survivor Foundation is recognized as a nonprofit corporation by the Texas Secretary of State, and is pending federal 501(c)(3) approval from the IRS. The Foundation was launched on the 5-year anniversary of Operation Redwing, as a way to honor Marcus Luttrell's fallen comrades in the Afghanistan initiative known by that name. The Lone Survivor Foundation is dedicated to supporting American wounded warriors and their families. Luttrell's "Never Quit" mantra, the lost heroes of Operation Redwing and the motivation to "pay it forward" have inspired the foundation. The Lone Survivor Foundation welcomes home, empowers and restores wounded warriors and their families. www.LoneSurvivorFoundation.org.
About Edwards Entertainment
Jarrett and Rebecca Edwards own and operate Edwards Entertainment, a high-definition video production company specializing in the outdoor industry television needs through boat, helicopter, underwater videography and multi-camera production. They shoot and edit in the very latest HD technology. In addition to producing the Jarrett Edwards Outdoors television series for the World Fishing Network, the team also films specialty events, commercials, infomercials and more. Jarrett is a former professional bass fisherman, and survived Hodgkin's Lymphoma stage 2B cancer at age 25.