‘Warriors on the Water’ gives veterans chance to relax, fish

Apr. 17, 2013 @ 04:57 AM

A joint force of civilians and active duty Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard personnel will occupy Jordan Lake this Friday.

But it’s not a real invasion — or even a simulation of one. It’s simply a gesture of thanks from local volunteers and boat owners, giving those who have served their country a chance to relax, catch some fish and engage in friendly competition.

Starting at 7:30 a.m. Friday, 150 boats will embark from Jordan Lake’s New Hope boat ramp, according to Janet Chilton, a Sanford real estate agent and organizer and volunteer with Warriors on the Water — which has been held for the last eight years. The boats will leave in groups of about 30, she said, and she encouraged people who want to come give the soldiers a sendoff to arrive by about 6:45 a.m. because parking will fill up fast.

Chilton herself will get there around 2:30 in the morning, tying yellow ribbons on the boats to set them apart from other watercraft on the lake that day. The only people who are eligible for the event are combat veterans still on active duty, she said, which puts getting up early for the ribbon-tying in perspective.

“I just get up and go out there,” Chilton said. “They get up and carry a gun to protect us.”

And while Chilton is urging the public to come out for the launching, which includes a playing of the National Anthem and a military color guard, she noted that Jordan Lake officials won’t allow more than 150 boats to be sent out — a number that was reached within days of last year’s event. Chilton said people who want to volunteer their boats, time and gas for next year should go to www.warriorsonthewater.org to register by this weekend; otherwise, they might miss out.

After launching in the morning, the veterans and their temporary captains will fish until about 1 p.m., at which time they’ll come back and Warriors on the Water staff will present prizes to those who caught the most fish and the biggest fish. Then, all the fish will be released back into the lake, and planning for next year’s event will begin.