Gone fishin’: Veterans thanked, treated to a little relaxation and fishing

November 2018 Posted in Community
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Silverton resident Bernie Hoene is president of Take a Soldier Fishing, providing thanks to veterans in the form of fishing trips.

By Nancy Jennings

For Bernie Hoene, showing gratitude to our veterans is as easy as baiting a hook and taking a fishing trip.

Each year on the second week in July, the Silverton resident does just that. Now in his fourth year as a volunteer with the non-profit organization, “Take a Soldier Fishing,” Bernie, 61, excitedly shares his 40 years of fishing experience with veterans… for free.

“My dad took me fishing for as long as I can remember,” Hoene said. “When I got older, taking people out fishing who have never gone before was thrilling. I got to show them how to tie a hook and read a river. It has always been my passion.”

A U.S. Army veteran himself, he can’t think of a more perfect way to give back to those who defended our country.

“I’m retired… and I wanted to fish five days a week,” he said.

With the motto, “Thank You to our Veterans One Fishing Trip at a Time,” the organization’s volunteers gear up on the second week in July. The fishing trip begins at Shelter Cove Resort, which is situated on Odell Lake, a nearly 70-mile drive east of Eugene off Highway 58. The lake offers Kokanee salmon and Mackinaw (Lake Trout) for the catching.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Bernie was a deputy sheriff in that region for 31 years. He had varied assignments, but his favorite was working as a patrol deputy.

“It was hours and hours of boredom with just milliseconds of excitement. The rapid pace, when it happened, was a lot of fun.”

He is also a helicopter and airplane pilot. “I had my pilot’s license before I could drive a car,” he said.

He and his wife, Rauna, moved to Silverton in 2012, and live on the outskirts of town near the Abiqua River. While Rauna was raised in Salem, Bernie had never been to Oregon until a vacation in 2001. The couple, who have been married for 11 years, were actively scouting out areas to retire – including a visit to Idaho.

Bernie still believes that Rauna “secretly saved Oregon for last,” he joked. It didn’t take long for its natural beauty to reel him in. Add to that Silverton’s charm and it was a done deal.

“We ended up moving here a year earlier than we planned.”

One day in 2013, while shopping at a fishing supply store in Salem, Bernie met Boyd Blanchard, the organization’s founder. They got to talking. For hours.

Blanchard invited him to join and become a boat captain. Bernie was only too happy to dive in and immerse himself in the cause, becoming a licensed/insured fishing guide – and First Aid/CPR certified.

He recently became the organization’s president.

“Over the last couple of years, the program really has expanded,” Hoene said. “Boyd was jazzed that someone wanted to take the ball and run with it. We have really good sponsors who want us to stay with them.

“We have 60 veterans that we bring out every year, 35 boat captains, and 10 to 15 regular volunteers that help each year.”

Bernie also runs “Bait-N-Wait” Detroit Lake fishing charters, where Chinook and Kokanee Salmon, and Rainbow Trout can be caught.

“I realized the whole essence in this organization was to cater to veterans who had suffered from PTSD or military-related problems,” he said.

“It’s a weekend of therapeutic relaxation and some form of healing for these guys. Unless you’ve been in the military – whether you’ve been in combat or not – most people don’t understand what it means to have lived a separate life, and then get back into regular civilization.

“I’ve been told I have a good ear and the gift of gab,” Hoene said, adding the shared evening talks around the campfire is a healing experience.

“Fishing and camping has always been the common denominator that helped us get through our issues and relieve those stressors.”

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