With a fishing pole in his hands, Wayne Johnston of Lamar was just one of more than 200 veterans who fished during the second annual Rainbows for Veterans event on Saturday.
The event took place at the Neosho National Fish Hatchery and was co-sponsored by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Missouri Department of Conservation, the Friends of the Neosho Fish Hatchery organization and Sugar Creek Gobblers, the McDonald County chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. The event was a way of thanking all the veterans for their service.
“I served from 1966-1970 in the U.S. Navy submarine force and then I went to Joplin to the reserves from 1970-74,” he said.
Johnston noted he did not go to Vietnam, but served aboard nuclear submarines.
“We were in the Atlantic Ocean,” Johnston said. “We took care of the Atlantic Ocean.”
Johnston said he came last year as part of the Patriot Guard and didn’t fish. But this year, he opted to fish.
“So far, I caught two,” he said with a smile on his face.
Johnston applauded the organizations and the volunteers for their efforts in recognizing veterans and giving them a chance to fish. Each veteran could catch up to four rainbow trout, have them cleaned and take them home with them.
“I think that it is great that they do this for our veterans down here,” Johnston said. “And I just want to be a part of it and I like the fact that we got the veterans coming from Mt. Vernon, coming here, the older veterans.”
Johnston said he was proud of this event and the thanking of other veterans as well.
“One of the reasons that I got involved with veterans — and I didn’t do that until about five years ago — is because my brother was in Vietnam, he is three years younger than me, he was in the Navy,” he said. “And when our veterans came home from Vietnam, they weren’t recognized, they were kind of shunned to some extent. I personally felt that I am not going to let our military men and women come back from Afghanistan, Iraq, not be recognized and thank them for appreciations for them serving, willing to leave their families and go and fight for our freedoms. And I just really appreciate that. I am glad that the country is noticing as a whole that our veterans are very important to us. Our service men and women and what they do because nowadays they are strictly volunteer, I volunteered when I joined back then, but I had a lot of incentive, because if you didn’t volunteer you were probably going to be drafted anyway. But nowadays our men and women are volunteers and I just really appreciate them. They don’t have to do it, but they do it to serve our country and protect our freedoms.”
Another veteran, Carlton “Peanut” Lewis, snagged a fish nearly right after he put his fishing line into the water. Lewis served in the U.S. Air Force from 1971-1975.
“I never made it across the big water, I was stationed in the states, Alaska is the only exciting place I got to go,” said Lewis.
He also applauded the efforts for the event.
“It is good for the town, good for the people to enjoy what they have here,” he said.
Asked what Lewis was going to do with the fish he caught, he noted he was going to eat them Saturday night.
“I have never eaten trout before, so I am going to try it,” he said.