REND LAKE, IL (KFVS) - It should be no surprise to anyone that the men and women who serve our country overseas can come back with experiences and trauma that can be hard to cope with. That's why organizations like Healing of our American Heroes exist and do what they can to help them.
On Friday, April 27, they organized a fishing trip at Rend Lake to bring veterans together to enjoy a nice day on the water and talk with people who understand.
Tom Gaither is the coordinator for HOOAH's southern Illinois operations who says they have somewhere between 120-140 veterans join them every year for things like hunting, fishing, golfing, and pretty much anything else they can do outside.
"We orchestrate getting them together," he said. "But the healing actually comes from spending time with people who actually understand."
One veteran who has been helped from events like these is John "J.J." Jones, who says he first got involved with HOOAH when he went to a turkey hunt. He says he saw the good the organization does for his fellow soldiers and has been helping out with it ever since.
"You become family after a time you know?" he said. "When you first get here you're kinda quiet, but you kind of start slow and get in there. Then after a while you get to know people and you start talking more."
Over the years, Gaither says people have heard about what HOOAH does and have started to donate their time and resources to help.
Holly Linton is a professional fisher and says this is her favorite fishing event to attend every year.
"We love this one," she said, "This one is a really good way for us to get involved and give back."
Gaither and other organizers say some veterans are hesitant to attend an event like this but wants them to know they will be more than welcomed.
"There's really nothing to be scared of," he said, "We're pretty easy to hang out with and we'll really treat you like family. If nothing else, you might catch a fish or two while you're here."