D'Amore's view: Three ladies and some grateful veterans

As I See It Joe D'Amore

Veterans, volunteers and the crew pose after the annual fishing trip.

“The VA saved my life.”

This is what a veteran explained to me, along with lots of heartfelt details about his life on a recent fishing trip organized by Dick George of the 101st Airborne Division Association of Newburyport.

George collaborated with several wonderful organizations to fill a fishing boat that cast off Plum Island for a special day of camaraderie, fishing and the good fortune of whale watching and dolphin sightings.

It was the annual Homeless Veterans Fishing Trip. The Bedford VA, New England Center and Home for Veterans in Boston, Veterans Northeast Outreach Center, Haverhill, and Merrimack Valley Hope Mission in Groveland provided organizational support, coordination and rides for everyone.

Many of the veterans on board, either currently or in the past, fit one of the three categories of homelessness: unsheltered (they are living outdoors), sheltered (living in overnight or emergency shelters) or transitionally sheltered (a wide variety of federally subsidized housing arrangements).

Many of the men were combat veterans while others had noncombat service all over the world. Some were fresh from deployment. Almost everyone was wounded in some way with most of those wounds invisible. Scars ran deep in this crowd — either a physical or intangible way —and yet everyone engaged in meaningful conversation downplayed those scars and declared their love for this country. You had the strong impression here that nobody had any regrets.

There were numerous sponsors, including the Haverhill Breakfast Exchange, Two Guys Smoke Shop, Manzi Bonanno & Bowers attorneys, Salem Co-operative, Salem Five Cents Savings Bank, Comfort Home Care, Methuen and NESC Credit Union. These organizations made an early entry to provide the necessary funding and extras like bus rides.

Additionally, there were three very special “ladies” behind the scenes that made this first trip a success. The owners, captain and crew members of the Captain’s Lady II of Newburyport and Plum Island provided special attention and a professional deference to the veterans.

And two women — who generally avoid the limelight like the plague — were the greatest, silent forces behind this effort with their flawless organization and delivery.

Jillian Harmon, a community outreach specialist for Veterans Northeast Outreach Center, Haverhill, promoted the event and tied in other regional organizations to expand participation.

And Katie Cook of Salem, New Hampshire, masterfully promoted sponsorship. She, along with her family and the sponsors she garnered, helped ensure that the participants were treated to a special day at no cost to them as a way of saying thank you.

As the Captain’s Lady II turned toward sea, Katie and Jillian waved from the dock and the final sendoff was commanded by Paul Hogg, the Newburyport harbormaster, guiding the party boat past the breakwaters. Paul and his family have been steadfast advocates for veterans for at least a generation.

This event was a unique opportunity to celebrate not only the men in attendance who have sacrificed so much in the service to our nation but also some pretty amazing people who quietly serve with distinction those who are most deserving.

Joe D’Amore is the founder of Merrimack Valley Hope Mission.

Daily News Original Article can be found here: http://www.newburyportnews.com/columns/d-amore-s-view-three-ladies-and-some-grateful-veterans/article_818f5aab-4136-5868-88c2-3698c3a30dd3.html