t was definitely a winning combination on Saturday morning when the Northern Wyoming Walleyes Unlimited organization and other volunteers hosted veterans from the Sheridan VA Medical Center Extended Care Unit at Fort Mackenzie for a day on Lake DeSmet.
Noreen was out early on the water to see if loading on the shore line would be possible - in the end the boats were loaded at the boat ramp.
Part of that winning combination I mentioned earlier - boats from the Walleyes Unlimited group & others met up with the VA Medical Center Vans to provide transportation that resulted in a day full of smiles.
The first group of veterans as they arrive and get a glimpse of one of the boats they are about to embark on. Jake, in the red hat, was the Recreation Assistant from the VA in charge of this group of arriving veterans.
With bait on the table behind him this vet was anxious to check out his fishing gear.
The Walleyes Unlimited President - Ken Gould
Looks like this veteran has hooked up with a boat group and is ready to go hook a trout.
Chuck, from Salt Lake City, and David, from Colorado - both Army Veterans are already in a boat and the boat is not yet in the water.
Looks like they are riding the boat to the boat ramp as they wave and give a thumbs up.
Another boat with veterans aboard the pickup for the short ride to the boat ramp.
A smiling Tom Gould of Walleyes Unlimited waiting for the second group of veterans to arrive.
John an Army vet who said he is from "everywhere" is evidently indicating how long the fish he is going to catch will be.
Darrell who has heard that a wheel chair occupant may be arriving with the next van of veterans gets his Crestliner pontoon boat ready while Noreen, already in the water heads to the boat ramp to pick up her passengers.
After a quick meet and greet the boat captain on the right is ready to head to his boat with a pair of veterans.
Charlie Patton, a WWII Army veteran, is not even out of the van yet and he is smiling as he talks to Shelia, the VA Recreational Therapist.
The spry, 94-year old, has elected to ride the chair to the boat - perhaps a good thing - have you ever walked down that steep boat ramp?
Shelia helps several others out of the second van.
Here comes Charlie and Shelia - I told you that was a steep boat ramp.
Tom and Noreen Gould help the veterans board their boat named "May B This Time."
Shelia helps 87-year old Gordon Legg aboard Darrell's pontoon boat.
One of the first things I noticed was the U.S. Marines emblem on his trouser leg and I knew I was in good company as I shook his hand and told him "Semper Fi" (the "always faithful" greeting between Marines).
Charlie and Gordon are ready to launch.
Gordon and Charlie, now in life vests , in the middle of this photo have dropped their lines in.
Fishing and story telling are underway - Charlie a WWII Army democrat from north of Spotted Horse Wyoming who raised Angus cattle v/s Gordon a WWII Marine republican from Cody who raised Sharley cattle - it was a blast.
Darrell kept Charlie and Gordon informed of the water depth and temperature as we trolled toward the north end of the lake.
Gordon pulled in the first rainbow trout with the help of Shelia and the net.
There is one of those smiles I told you about earlier.
Gordon gives a "thumbs up" as he turns his fish over to Darrell.
But what about Charlie? As Gordon gets ready to cast his line in again.
Shelia has the net out again and this time it is for Charlie
Now it is Charlie's turn to smile and rub it in that his rainbow is bigger.
It is nearing time to head back and we need a tie breaker and here it is as Shelia lowers the net.
The smile on Charlie's face says it all - he's happy and he beat Gordon.
It is time to head back to shore.
As we near the boat ramp others including John, in the red jacket, are headed out for a second trip complete with smiles and a wave.
Yes, Charlie is still smiling as he takes off his life jacket.
I wonder if Charlie saw this signal given by Dwayne Steward, a veteran Navy Corpsman from Arizona, that had caught three.
Shelia walks beside a still happy Charlie as he gets help going up the steep ramp.
Charlie enjoys his lunch in the van and is still smiling.
And Gordon is happy as he gets handed his lunch.
A van full of happy veterans, thanks to the Walleyes Unlimited group and others, take their smiles and fish with them as they head home.
The weathered sign on the back of the pop-up camper of Tom & Noreen Gould speaks for itself as the veterans head home and the members of "Northern Wyoming Walleyes Unlimited" and the other volunteers reflect on the smiles they brought to the veterans faces on Saturday morning.