While the Kenai River Classic provides the major source of funding and support to our river and the Kenai Peninsula, there is also a personal side that is not seen by many. I would like to share one such event that will be a lifelong memory for those people on my boat. As in the past three years I had the pleasure of being one of the guides selected for the Classic. The four people assigned to my boat included the commander of the Third wing, Brigadier General select Tom Tinsley, and a recently medically retired soldier, Steve Sanford, who was sponsored by the Disabled Veterans of America.
Steve was the recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's second highest award for valor. In the action that won Steve that medal, he received significant damage to his lower leg and foot. Unfortunately, it was a slow fishing day, but we all desperately wanted Steve to catch his first king salmon.
As I often see in this business, the people in the boat began to talk and just enjoy the company and being on the river.
With only 20 minutes until the end of the morning's fishing, Steve got a hit. He set the hook like a pro and began the fight. Steve was having difficulty keeping his balance with the movement of the boat and reeling the fish in with one good leg. He announced this matter-of-factly and General Tinsley stepped up behind and grabbed the back of Steve's jacket, providing the much needed support.
After a lengthy fight, Steve pulled in the fish a 41-inch female. Steve beamed, as did everyone in the boat with obvious feelings of triumph for Steve. Steve was excited to show his wife his nice fish and mentioned how she always seems to beat him. She was fishing on another boat and as we arrived at the dock we learned she had caught a nice king larger than Steve's.
Four fishers and a guide enjoyed a perfect day of fishing on the Kenai River. The person we had hoped would catch a fish did and all of us felt a part of his extraordinary experience.
One cannot put a price on an experience like that. Thank you to the Kenai River Sportfishing Association and the Disabled Veterans of America for making that possible.
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