By Brian Schlumbohm, Fort Wainwright PAOAugust 26, 2010
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - Six Soldiers from the Warrior Transition Battalion traveled to Valdez Aug. 12 as guests of the group Reel Thanx, Inc.
Reel Thanx was founded in 2007 by Mike Mundy and Terry Johnson in Midland, Texas. They wanted to show their support for American Soldiers by taking them fishing. Since then, it has grown into an organization with five directors and many volunteers. The volunteers make it possible to take Soldiers on two- to three-day weekend fishing trips as many as four times a year. The non-profit organization relies entirely on the support of sponsors and donors.
Reel Thanx considers their mission "to honor Soldiers for their service, bravery and love of their country by "getting them back to nature for nurture."
Before beginning the long trip to Valdez, Alan Means, director of Reel Thanx, met with the group.
He told them he was humbled and honored to come to Alaska, to get to meet the Soldiers and have a chance to show his appreciation for their service.
He also announced that a local chapter of Reel Thanx was being organized. "Our feeling was that we were not impacting enough heroes," Means said. "Taking this thing nationwide was the next step and we're excited to be here in Fairbanks, Alaska."
Means also spoke about a new outreach program called "Reel Wives" in which his wife, Renee, is involved. He said that this program is meant to support those on the home front and show appreciation for the sacrifices they've made while their spouses served. Reel Wives sends care packages to the spouses and children, filled with personalized gifts, gift cards and various items from local donors.
"We want to impact as many heroes as we can, you guys have to understand how much we appreciate you...catching fish, having fun and doing what this organization is about, which is honoring you guys," said Ronald Zamber, leader of the newly formed Reel Thanx chapter of Fairbanks.
Pvt. Joshua Beebe, WTB, was excited about the opportunity., "I can't wait to go on this trip. I think it's really going to be a lot of fun. I've actually never gone fishing up here."
Spc. AJ Simm, WTB, said fishing in Alaska had always been on his list to do and the trip was "a great opportunity, looking forward to it."
For many of the Soldiers this was their first fishing experience on Alaskan seas.
"This trip is going to be good," Tim Johnson, WTB, said. I've never fished in Valdez."
After returning from the trip Means said "It was a wonderful weekend fishing at Valdez. The men had a great time. I truly believe there was a lot of healing going on. Healing is our goal at Reel Thanx and at the end of the day our trips aren't about fishing; they are about hugging on these guys and showing our gratitude for their service and the service of their spouses back home. It was an honor and privilege to be with these heroes from Fort Wainwright."