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Vietnam vets spend day on ultimate fishing trip

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 June 2014 at 12:00 am

Photo courtesy of Carl Bish – Richard Helmich, a Vietnam veteran from Delevan, holds up a fish he caught this morning in Lake Ontario. He was out fishing with three other veterans from the Vietnam War era.

POINT BREEZE – Charter boat captains and other leaders of Orleans County’s fishing industry today wanted to say thank you to area veterans of the Vietnam War. More than 50 veterans were treated to chartered fishing trips, and many hauled in big salmon and trout.

“It was very much appreciated,” said Owen Toale, who served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War era. He was stationed in Thailand.

“It feels like we’re the forgotten generation of military personnel.”

Provided photo – Owen Toale holds a fish he caught today while in Salmo Charters with three other veterans.

Joe Toomey, captain of the Irish Pride charter boat since 1984, suggested the fishing trip for veterans to a committee in charge of spending $25,000 to promote the fishery. The Point Breeze area received that award last year for winning the Ultimate Fishing Town contest through the World Fishing Network.

Some of those funds were used to put on today’s event, that included 52 veterans on 13 charter boats.

Toomey was grateful to see the committee acted on his idea to recognize the veterans and treat them to some fishing on Lake Ontario.

“I just felt it was time to give back,” he said.

Photos by Tom Rivers – Mike Waterhouse, Orleans County’s sportfishing coordinator, addresses about 100 people during a luncheon after today’s fishing trips for Vietnam War veterans.

The charter captains volunteered to take a day off from their paying customers. They did receive a stipend for gas and some of their expenses.

Kevin Johnson of Clarendon was in the same charter boat as Toale, and two other veterans: Larry DePalma and Richard Helmich. Johnson has a small fishing boat and likes to get out on the lake. He appreciated a chance to fish on a professional charter boat. Carl Bish is captain of Salmo Charters and he made the day fun for the veterans, Johnson said.

Paul Fulcomer, the county’s Veterans Service Agency director, had never been on a charter fishing boat before this morning. Fulcomer said it was the biggest boat he had been on since serving on a river boat in Vietnam.

“It was nice to be on a boat without someone shooting at you,” he said.

Photo courtesy of Carl Bish – Kevin Johnson of Clarendon holds up a fish he caught on today’s Ultimate Fishing Challenge trip for Vietnam War veterans.

Fulcomer praised the organizers for reaching out to the veterans who served in Vietnam.

“We all had a great time today,” Fulcomer said at the luncheon at the Black North Inn.

The group was treated to coffee and doughnuts in the morning by Tim Hortons and the Orleans County Deputy’s Association picked up the tab for beverages at the luncheon.

The veterans were joined on the water by Vietnam veteran and former State Assemblyman Charles Nesbitt, current county legislators Lynne Johnson and Ken DeRoller, and Eileen Banker, chief of staff for Assemblyman Steve Hawley.

The committee for the $25,000 in prize money has other projects in the works, including “Welcome To” signs. About half of the money still needs to be spent.

A celebratory cake awaits the veterans after they were treated to chartered fishing boats on the lake.