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Pope Airmen win big at Warriors on the Water

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kris Levasseur
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
There is a popular saying in the fishing world that says "There are two types of fisherman - those who fish for sport and those who fish for fish," but that is not completely true. There is a select group of fishermen who gather here every year to fish as a way of saying thank you.

Hal Abshire, Greg Lahr and Bob Cunningham, the founders of the annual Military Appreciation Bass Fishing Tournament known as 'Warriors on the Water,' played host to more than 150 Airmen, Soldiers, Marines and Sailors who were given food, supplies and a seat on a boat with an experienced fisherman all at no cost to the service member. The idea was formed when these three men, each of whom served in Desert Storm, wanted to find a way to thank military members for their service.

More than 25 Pope Airmen were selected to participate in the fifth annual Warriors on the Water event April 23 on Jordan Lake at New Hope Overlook Ramp near Raleigh, N.C.

"We couldn't do it without our sponsors," Mr. Abshire said. "When we first put it together we had no money. The sponsors make it happen, not just in the local area but throughout the United States. They want to give back to the men and women in our military. The volunteers were amazing too. It was really fantastic to get everyone's help to put this together. We definitely could not do it without them."

Preparations for the day of fishing began April 20 when the participating service members were invited to an "Icebreaker" social held at Sports USA on Fort Bragg. During the social, participants were teamed up with an expert who would act as the angler for the day while the servicemember acted as co-angler. Military members were then given supplies at the various stations around the room. The items included fishing bait, coupons and gift cards for sporting goods, hats and T-shirts. The generous amount of supplies and monetary gifts were donated by sponsors.

In addition to the supplies, this year's participants also received a new fishing rod and reel, which were purchased by donations made in the memory of Tech. Sgt. David G. Roberson II. Sergeant Roberson was an avid fisherman and proud supporter of the Warriors on the Water who passed away unexpectedly Dec. 27, 2009. This year's "Big Bass trophy" was named in his honor.

"My family and I are very proud that donations that were made on behalf of Dave made it possible to purchase so many fishing rods," said David Roberson Jr., Sergeant Roberson's father. "Dave had planned on participating in this year's W.O.W. Although this has been a very difficult time for our family, knowing that in some small way Dave's memory will continue thru the 'big bass' trophy in his name makes things a little easier."

The Tech. Sgt. David G. Roberson II Big Bass Trophy was received by Tech. Sgt. Steven Thackery, 43rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron and his boater, Mark Rogers for the seven pound, six ounce bass they caught. Sergeant Thacker and Mr. Rogers also took 10th place overall.

In addition to Sergeant Thackery's awards, Col. Charles Dunn, 43rd Mission Support Group Commander and his boater, Richard Szczerbala took 9th place.

This year's victor was a unique combination. Weighing in at 21 pounds, three ounces, the 1st place trophy went to Army Staff Sgt. Parker Tootill and boater, Tech. Sgt. James Poirrier, 43rd Logistics Readiness Squadron.

"I have won numerous tournaments," said Sergeant Poirrier. "I was 2006 American Bass Anglers Air Force Angler of the Year. Last year myself and tournament partner Rich Szczerbala weighed in more than 39 pounds in a five fish limit tournament, which was probably the biggest five fish limit in the state of North Carolina for any tournament in history, but none of those accomplishments can hold a candle to the feeling I felt when I walked across that stage to receive the trophy.

"Just to be in the presence and get the opportunity to hang out with soldiers like my partner Parker Tootill whom just finished up eight months of chemo for Hodgkin Lymphoma, and to hear the stories of deployments, families and just life in general from other soldiers some no older than 18 years old, is Humbling," he added. "This event gets bigger and better every year, thanks to the dedication of the sponsors, volunteers, committee members and the founders Bob, Hal and Greg."