The Fishing and Marine Industry Daily News Feed

Helping Heal American Heroes

PARK FALLS, WI – Take a Vet Fishing (TAVF) and Operation Healing Heroes Foundation (OHHF) exist for the sole purpose of improving the lives and health of our nation’s heroes. Since 2015, the two not-for-profit organizations have combined to treat over 3,500 U.S. Veterans from all eras of service to high-quality outdoors experiences intended to promote psychological healing; taken over 500 children of fallen soldiers fishing; and documented the heroic stories of over 50 Veterans on its Operation: Healing Heroes television show. Most importantly, perhaps, Take a Vet Fishing and Operation Healing Heroes have arranged and paid for personalized PTSD treatments for over 225 individual Veterans since 2019.

st croix Helping Heal American Heroes 02

“Our slogan at Take a Vet Fishing is ‘A Day of Giving Back’, and our outings are at the core of our mission,” says TAVF co-founder, Jay Garstecki. “When our brave service men and women return from overseas, as a nation, we fall short in showing our appreciation. A shockingly high number of service members are returning with injuries, and even the soldiers without physical wounds are having a hard time adjusting back into the ‘real world’. These heroes have given so much of themselves for our freedom, so reaching out and offering a thank you with a handshake is the very least we can do. At Take a Vet Fishing, we take it a step further, showing them even more gratitude by handing them a fishing rod and a full day of peaceful fun and camaraderie in the great outdoors.”

Garstecki and numerous TAVF volunteers recently hosted 75 Veterans for A Day of Giving Back in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

st croix Helping Heal American Heroes 03

“Including our volunteer guides, we got about 75 Veterans out fishing,” Garstecki says. “The beautiful fall colors welcomed us as we entered Eagle River, WI for our last TAVF outing for 2022. Eagle River, WI Chamber Of CommerceEagle River Fire DepartmentVFW Post 8637, Eagle River, WINorthland Pines School DistrictEagle River Inn & Resort, and Chef Rene’s at Eagle River all came together to make this event extra special for our Veterans,” continues Garstecki, who also tips his hat to TAVF’s numerous volunteers. “In addition to our hosting partners, our guides and volunteers are our backbone; without them we wouldn’t be able to pull these events off. Numerous fish of several different species were caught and it was just another wonderful day of giving back, full of fun, food, fishing and fellowship.”

st croix Helping Heal American Heroes 04

The Eagle River event was just one of eight fishing outings carefully planned and executed by TAVF in 2022. In addition to these Day of Giving Back fishing events, TAVF provided four additional organized outings for Veterans in 2022.

st croix Helping Heal American Heroes 05

“One of the highlights of the recent Eagle River event was a visit to St. Croix Rod in Park Falls,” Garstecki adds. “We had 16 Veterans who came in a couple days early so they could take advantage of the opportunity to tour the St. Croix Rod factory and it was a wonderful experience for everyone! St. Croix has been a valuable long-time supporting partner of Take a Vet Fishing, as well as a corporate sponsor of Operation Healing Heroes Foundation. They really rolled out the red carpet for our Veterans, providing an in-depth, guided factory tour, a wonderful lunch with St. Croix employees, and they even gave all the attending Veterans a handcrafted Premier rod with our Take a Vet Fishing logo. They made our participating Veterans not only feel appreciated, but really made them feel a special part of the St. Croix family.”

st croix Helping Heal American Heroes 06

“St. Croix Rod is proud to lend its ongoing support and partnership to Take a Vet Fishing and Operation Healing Heroes,” says St. Croix Vice President of Marketing, Jesse Simpkins. “The work that Jay and his partners do in simply getting so many of our American heroes and their families out on the water and fishing together is special enough, but they don’t stop there. TAVF and OHHF show so much leadership and creativity in actively caring for and helping to rehabilitate and heal our Veterans. Anyone who knows Jay and his organizations know that they don’t just take Veterans fishing and send everyone home with fishing rods; they provide extensive service and support. They guide and direct Veterans to life-changing programs and opportunities; they seek out and pay for personalized treatments that lead to real healing and improved quality of life.”

For more information on Take a Vet Fishing, visit

For more information on Operation Healing Heroes Foundation, visit

Join the conversation on social media @operationhealingheroes and @takeavetfishingnfp.

st croix Helping Heal American Heroes 07

About St. Croix Rod

Headquartered in Park Falls, Wisconsin, St. Croix has been proudly producing the “Best Rods on Earth” for nearly 75 years. Combining state-of-the-art manufacturing processes with skilled craftsmanship, St. Croix is the only major producer to still build rods entirely from design through manufacturing. The company remains family-owned and operates duplicate manufacturing facilities in Park Falls and Fresnillo, Mexico. With popular trademarked series such as Legend®, Legend Xtreme®, Victory Avid®, Premier®, RIFT, Imperial®, Triumph® and Mojo, St. Croix is revered by all types of anglers from around the world.

Keep your finger on the fishing industry pulse

The Definititive News Source of the Fishing & Marine Industry