CAYCE, S.C. — A fishing guide and a nonprofit have teamed up to help veterans, active service members and law enforcement officers build relationships together and escape the struggles they deal with on a daily basis.
Justin McGrady is a striper guide on Columbia's Saluda, Congaree and Broad rivers.
"The significance of what I do is the history of stripers and where they come from, freshwater stripers," said McGrady.
McGrady says when the dams were built for Lake Marion, stripers were landlocked. The fish would come up from the ocean to migrate.
"The stripers thrived. They're doing very well in the fresh water and that's what gave us the freshwater striper that we fish for today in Lake Murray and every lake in the U.S.," explained McGrady.
McGrady runs the The S.C. River Guide. He takes people fishing across the three rivers.
"Due to the terrain of the river, it gives people a different experience fishing out of a boat," said McGrady.
Recently McGrady partnered with Hometown Hero Outdoors to help serve veterans, current serving military and law enforcement officers.
Hometown Hero Outdoors is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that helps provide free outdoor activities so veterans, service members and law enforcement officers have a place to build relationships and escape what hardships they are dealing with.
As an Air Force veteran himself, McGrady believes it's important to look out for those who serve and protect other people.
"Being able to take guys out that normally wouldn't know about or wouldn't have the chance to go out with a guide gives them an opportunity to escape their every day stresses through fishing," said McGrady.
The captain takes veterans, active military, and law enforcement officers out on the boat to catch stripers. McGrady believes it's an amazing experience for everybody.
Shaun Olsberg, state director of Hometown Hero Outdoors, says they have chapters in five different states.
"I started this chapter about a year ago. I'm a 19-year active-duty Army vet and currently serving," said Olsberg. "There wasn't an organization like this around."
Olsberg says one of their goals is have like-minded people come together to promote healing.
"We try to deal with some of the stressors of our everyday life," explained Olsberg. "The fellowship of bringing everybody together with a similar background, it just opens up conversation and everybody seems to have a good time when they're either out there in the woods or if they're on the water."
Since they're 100-percent volunteer based and the money goes directly towards assisting current serving military, veterans, and law enforcement officers, they're able to connect with hunting and fishing guides across the state.
"To be able to catch a fish like that and pound-for-pound the bite you get and to release it, it's a reward, an indescribable feeling."
Folks can contact Hometown Hero Outdoors on their Facebook if they want to be a part of the group.