Boat rides offered as thanks to veterans
Hugh G. Willett knoxnews.com
LOUDON — Dozens of veterans and volunteers took to the waters of Tellico and Fort Loudoun lakes Saturday for the second annual BoatRides4Vets event.
The weather was perfect for the event, with fair skies and gentle breezes blowing on a remarkably calm lake. Few boaters on the water made for a smooth ride.
Veterans and their families were treated to free fishing, tubing or just a relaxing cruise on the lakes courtesy of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5150 in Loudon.
For Jim Jorgenson, adjutant of the VFW post and an Army combat veteran of the Vietnam War, this was his second year as a volunteer for the event.
“It’s a great way to say thanks to the vets,” he said.
The boats set off from Wind River Marina. There were 17 boats available in the morning with captains and crews standing by.
Jorgenson personally inspected the boats for safety equipment before they left the dock.
“Safety is the most important thing,” he said.
Without a set plan, each boat offered something different based on the choice of the passengers. Boats embarked on full or half-day cruises with options for picnicking aboard or stops at places such as Calhoun’s Restaurant in Lenoir City.
Tellico Village resident and Navy veteran Mike Cottle skippered his 22-foot pontoon boat, while his wife Beverly saw to the comfort of their passengers Joe Barteck and his wife of 42 years, Rita.
Barteck, a 20-year Air Force veteran, is building a home in Blount County with his wife. They decided the weather was nice enough to take a day off from construction, saw the event advertised in the paper and decided to check it out.
As the Cottles’ boat headed out across the lake, Beverly distributed snacks while pointing out the sights and landmarks such as golf courses and yacht clubs.
She said she enjoyed participating in the event last year.
“We had a great time. We had three couples go out with us,” she said.
Rita, who had been on the lake only once previously, marveled at the scenery and the opulent homes along the shoreline.
“I heard it was pretty out here but never really had the chance to see it,” she said.
Watching two teenagers paddle by in kayaks, she exclaimed, “I’ve always wanted to do that.”
Cottle turned the boat around near Rarity Bay and headed back towards Calhoun’s Restaurant on the docks in Lenoir City, where complimentary lunches were provided.
Back at the Wind River Marina, Alex Vineyard and Buddy Gettelfinger of Knoxville, both self-described expert fisherman, caught a few largemouth bass from the dock while they waited to take on guests. Although their boat was capable of tubing or just sightseeing, they said they were hoping for a chance to show off their fishing skills.
Larry Schaefer, a Vietnam veteran who served with the 101st Airborne Division, and his wife Kay don’t own a boat and don’t get on the water a lot. He said they stopped by the event to enjoy the beautiful weather and to get the chance to meet more local veterans.
Four boats went out in the morning. By early afternoon the temperature was approaching the 90s, and activity was picking up.
With plenty of volunteers available, Jorgenson said he would like to increase the number of participants next year.
Although the VFW was for years dominated by veterans of WWII and Korea, these days the most active members are those from the Vietnam era. He said he’s eager to see more young veterans participate in the VFW.
“We don’t see a lot of activity from the Iraq War generation yet, but we’re hoping to see more get involved.” he said.