FORT HOOD, Texas - The stresses of a Soldier tend to come from all aspects of his or her career; handling normal activities, preparing for deployment or readjusting to 'normal life' after a deployment. These stresses are typically seen by everyone around them and there are some members of their communities that want to help relieve these stresses.

Fishing in a tournament is one of the many ways.

Therefore more than 240 Fort Hood Soldiers participated in the 'Fishing for Freedom' fishing tournament, Sept. 25, which was arranged in their support, at Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area, Belton, Texas.

This free bass tournament is a yearly event that started in 2004. Professional and amateur anglers are invited to participate with one major requirement, they are to sponsor an active duty service member or retired veteran and take him or her fishing with them on their boat as a team effort. The boater must also provide equipment and the know-how for even a first-time fisherman paired with them.

"This tournament is a way for us to give back to those who defend our freedom, thus the name 'Fishing for Freedom'," said Earl Bentz, chairman and founder of Triton Boats. "We like to give them all the support we can, them and their families, by showing them a good time."

The shore line of Belton Lake was filled with boats as the anglers came in to weigh in their catch for the day. Even though some of the teams were unable to catch any bass they still had a timeline to meet.

"[My team] came up short and didn't catch anything but I still enjoyed the experience," said Sgt. Paul Barnes, G3 section admin, 1st Cavalry Division, and Witchita, Kan. native.

Cash prizes were awarded for second through 15th place and a grand prize of a Triton Boat, worth about $19,000, awarded to first place. Triton Boats and Earl Bentz have donated more than $150,000 worth of boats to this event for the life of the tournament.

"Every penny we raise, excluding expenses for the tournament, goes back to the fisherman and service member," said Clifford Browne, owner of Texas Boat World, Harker Heights, Texas.

The evening before the tournament a dinner was held at the Killeen Civic Center where more than 950 fishermen, service members and their families came out. Monies collected from this dinner were also added to the cash prizes.

Embedded within the event was a smaller tournament for Purple Heart recipients. He or she who caught the biggest bass was awarded with their name being placed on a banner that will be present at every 'Fishing for Freedom' tournament.

"I had received a purple heart but unfortunately my fish wasn't big enough," said Sgt. Ernest Chainey, G3 section, 1st Cav. Div., and Belton, Texas native. "I still enjoyed the event and had a great time."

The tournament had many sponsors and many volunteers, all showing their appreciation to the service members.

"If it wasn't for what [Soldiers] do or had been doing, by defending our way of life, we wouldn't be having these tournaments," said Terry Kneedler, Triton Boat representative. "This is just the beginning of what we could give back to them."

"I volunteered to come out and fish because this event supports a great cause," said Keith Combs, professional angler.

All-in-all the majority of the day was overcast and raining. Yet participants pressed on and finished with the tournament to support their service member or veteran, show them a good time and help them forget about their stresses.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16