Veteran’s Experience Epic Lake of the Woods Fishing
In 2016, Lance and Tammy Peterson started organizing an event to take veterans fishing up at Arnesen’s Rocky Point on Lake of the Woods. The motivation behind this event was to honor Lance’s friend, Stephen Bentzlin, the first MN man to be killed in the Gulf War January 29, 1991. He grew up with him in a small town of 400 people, Wood Lake, MN.
This past weekend, the Peterson’s with much help, pulled off third annual veteran’s event. In Lance’s words, “I never imagined it could end up so great.” This event is a labor of love. There are many volunteers and of course, the support of Arnesen’s Rocky Point that help this event to be so special.
“This was my dream and to have all the help from people I didn’t know is so humbling. I can’t in words describe how I felt seeing a dream of mine come true. It totally exceeded my expectations and blew me away,” explains Peterson from Wood Lake, MN.
62 veterans (including 6 from WWII) were treated to a fishing trip to Lake of the Woods with everything provided through the Cottonwood, MN Area Sportsman’s Club, a division of the Hayward, WI Fishing Has No Boundaries group.
Veterans arrived at Arnesen’s from all over the Midwest. Once at Arnesen’s on Thursday night after a well received and emotional introduction, everyone had a chance to meet, have dinner and get to know each other.
Friday after breakfast, veterans had the chance to fish The Walleye Capital of the World. A number of volunteers brought their own personal boats to take veterans out fishing. And fish they did, catching good numbers of fish with the big fish of the weekend coming in 28.75″, a true Lake of the Woods trophy.
After fishing, participants were treated to a Friday nigh fish fry. Volunteers, over 90 in all, helped to clean and cook all of the fish, take veterans fishing and organize a number of other behind the scenes tasks to make this event successful. By the sounds of it, this wasn’t their first rodeo, the meals were delicious and the event came off wonderfully. “Now that it is our third event, every volunteer has a job. It’s like a well oiled machine,” explains Peterson. After some quality group time around the campfire, folks headed off to bed to rest up for another action packed day on Saturday.
There were many highlights this year, but a couple that stood out. Fagan, Inc. out of Granite Falls, MN flew 5 of the WWII veterans to the event in their private jet. If this wasn’t a highlight all by itself and quite an honor for these veterans, after they took off for the return flight home, the pilot flew high over Arnesen’s Rocky Point and dipped a wing to say goodbye and thank you!
There were three high school students who came to the event to help out from Lakeview High School in Cottonwood, MN. They volunteered to clean walleyes and over the course of the event cleaned all of the fish, over 400 in total! What a great gesture by young people to show appreciation to veterans.
There are a variety of veterans events that are held up at Lake of the Woods. Caring people pull together to honor, recognize and celebrate veterans. And of course, healing, we all hope, takes place. No matter how many veterans events that are held, there are veterans that are getting missed and benefit from events like this one. Not being a veteran, one thing I am coming to realize is although they are home, for many, the battle rages on. They still need support, recognition, and care.
A big thank you to everyone involved in this SW MN Veterans’ event this past weekend at Arnesen’s. Whether you volunteered, helped plan, took veterans fishing, donated product to the event or simply recognized a veteran for their service, thank you!