If there is one thing that everyone in America can agree on, it’s that our Vets are the best. They are the backbone of our country. Without them, we wouldn’t have our freedoms, and Life, Liberty and The Pursuit of Happiness wouldn’t even be a blip on our radar. They have strived to protect our rights and keep the dreams of our Founding Fathers alive. They are the few, the strong, the brave, the proud, the patriotic and we are forever indebted to them.
While everyone remembers to thank a Vet on Veterans Day, we should be thanking them every day for the sacrifices they have made for us. All over our country, you will find awesome events that honor these amazing people, and the even more amazing things they’ve done for us. However, there is one event that is near and dear to my heart.
Every May, the channel of Manistee, Michigan (my beloved hometown) is lined with thousands of people waving flags and cheering. No, we’re not practicing for the Fourth of July parade, and no we’re not shooting a movie. (Manistee is a favorite location for movie producers, FYI.) We’re waiting for 50+ Charter Boats filled with around 300 veterans to come through the channel.
Sounds pretty spectacular right?
Manistee is quickly becoming known as one of the most “veteran friendly” places in this state, thanks to my great Uncle Bob Guenthardt. In 2010, he had an idea. He wanted to take some veterans out on his Charter Boat for a day of fishing, just to say thank you. He mentioned it to a few of his fellow captains, and they wanted to do it too. And just like that, Tight Lines for Troops was born. That first year, they took out 28 boats. Now, 8 years later, the event has grown tremendously.
I know… half of you know a Vet and are thinking “OH MY GOD I HAVE TO SIGN THEM UP!” And I hate to be the barer of bad news, but you can’t. Applications were due months ago, and the boats are already filled. But that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate with the rest of us this year, and sign up early for the next!
Let’s start with The Basics, shall we?
- What is Tight Lines? Well, we might as well start from the beginning! Tight Lines for Troops is a federally recognized, nonprofit organization that puts on a charity fishing tournament every May for Veterans of all ages. They are committed to delivering a memorable experience for more than 300 Vets fishing in “Big Lake” and “Pier and Shore” divisions. (Because of the massive demand of Veterans applying, not everyone can get a spot on a boat. Those receiving boat priority are WWII and Korean War Vets, Purple Heart recipients, disabled veterans , and POWs.)
- The Dates. Tight Lines is almost always the weekend before Memorial Day. This year, registration for participants is May 18th, with the fishing tournament and Welcome Back Celebration being May 19th.
- The Location. Downtown Manistee, Michigan.
- Stay, Eat, Drink, Play. A while ago, I did a Mitten Monday on my hometown. Whether it’s the summer time, or Sleighbell Weekend, I will ALWAYS recommend the same places to stay, eat, drink and play. Check out my Manistee City Guide here. (Please note, hotels fill up fast with Vet’s and their families coming in to town.)
The Vets. Our Veterans hail from all over Michigan serving in all different eras (wartime and peacetime). From World War II Vets to men and women who have recently returned home from the Middle East, all our heroes are welcomed with open arms. If you are a veteran and would like to get involved next year, I highly recommend liking Tight Lines on Facebook. They begin announcing application dates in January or February.
The Boats. Without the generosity of Charter Boat Captains from around Northern Michigan, this amazing event would not be possible. They stock up their beautiful boats with everything the Vets could ever need (seriously, they don’t even have to bring a pole), drinks and food. They take the Vets to their favorite spots out on Lake Michigan and help them reel in massive fish. And they do it all for absolutely free. Check out a list of this year’s fleet here.
The Welcome Back Celebration. While the fishing is great, the Welcome Back Celebration is the shining moment of the weekend for most of the Vets. My father in law fishes in the tournament every year, and he says that there is nothing like coming down the channel and seeing thousands of people waving American flags and yelling “Thank You For Your Service!!!!” at the top of their lungs. This Welcome Back Celebration is the celebration that every single Vet deserved when they returned home, but may have not received. It’s happy, it’s touching, and it’s pretty incredible.
How can you get involved? I’ve got you sold don’t I? Honestly, how can I not?! This is such a great cause, and getting involved is so dang easy!
- Join The Welcome Back Celebration. This is the absolute easiest way to get involved in this great event. Throw on your Red, White and Blue and head to the Riverwalk. Grab a flag from one of The Welcome Flag Stations, and wave your heart out.
- Volunteer. Tight Lines For Troops is always looking for volunteers to help throughout the entire weekend. See what volunteer spots are still available here.
- Donate. Can’t make it down? Donate to this wonderful organization here.
We’ve already made our plans to be in Manistee this weekend… will you? For more information on Tight Lines For Troops, click here. I hope to see each and every one of you down there waving a flag with me!
Have a fantastic rest of your Monday my friends! Don’t forget to check out my first post of the day here!
*This post has been updated from a previous post.