Eric S. Smith, a retired staff sergeant of the National Guard, won last weekend’s Wounded Warrior Fishing Tournament at Thurmond Lake.
The event, held at the Dorn Tournament Facility and sponsored by the Striped Bass Conservation Coalition in South Carolina, teamed 13 soldiers from Fort Gordon’s Warrior Transition Unit and other areas with boat captains for a day on the water to compete for prizes and money.
Retired 1st Sgt. Herman L. Ross Sr., of Grovetown, celebrated his 80th birthday on the day of the tournament.
“It was my first time on a boat fishing,” he said. “I have fished with cane poles from the banks, but never fishing in a boat. It was good to be able to catch fish.”
Sgt. Brad Willett, of Charlie Company of the Warrior Transition Unit, who was teamed up with Kenneth Brooks, of the fishing team Just Wanta Fish, found out about the event when it was announced in formation.
“It was great to be able to be on the water,” he said. “It is good to see a foundation of people supporting soldiers.”
Staff Sgt. Christopher Marti, also of Charlie Company, was grateful for the fishing opportunity.
“I have been isolating myself, so it was great to be able to get out,” he said.
Money and prizes for the event were raised through local sponsorships and fundraisers, according to tournament director Mark K. Crawford Sr.
“It was rewarding talking to the soldiers and seeing how much they appreciated the opportunity to get them out of the house and on the water. It gets their mind off their problems, even if only for a little while.”
Warren Turner, SBCC president, said the event would have been a success “even if only one of our American Heroes had been able to fish. We had 13 who were able to enjoy a day on the water.”
Next year’s tournament will be the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend.