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Service members, families enjoy day fishing on St. Lawrence River through state trooper group

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CLAYTON — The conditions may have been soggy, but spirits were high Saturday as several wounded military service members, veterans and family members spent the day fishing.

“It didn’t matter if it was raining,” said Spc. Eric P. Valdez, a member of Fort Drum’s Warriors in Transition Battalion, which readies injured soldiers to return to their unit or retire. “It was fun.”

The group of about 50 hit the waters of Cape Vincent, Clayton, and Alexandria Bay about 8 a.m., and fished until about 1 p.m. Returning to the Clayton Town Dock about 1:30 p.m., the group was met by a collection of state police and first responders from Wellesley Island, Alexandria Bay and Clayton.

“It’s always nice to be appreciated,” said Spc. Marc A. Miranda, also from the battalion.

The fishing day was organized by New York North Country Troopers Assisting Troops, which has planned the event since its formation in April.

It was a good day for Staff Sgt. Ronald N. Vanderhall, of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., in his first time to the area, catching pike and bass during the morning.

“I’m getting hooked on fishing,” Sgt. Vanderhall said, before quickly correcting himself. “What am I saying? I am hooked on fishing.”

Sgt. Vanderhall described the morning as “real serene and relaxing.”

Arriving at the Antique Boat Museum after the procession, several of the fishing guides took to the grills, preparing the fish for a shore lunch.

David J. Gascon, who runs Fun2Fish in Alexandria Bay, said the day was just as special to the guides as it was to the guests. “It’s a good cause,” he said. “It don’t get no better.”

One guest of Patrick R. Snyder, who owns A-Bay Fishing Charters, snagged a 19-inch bass within the first five minutes of the day, without any experience fishing.

“You should have seen their faces when they caught a fish,” Mr. Snyder said.

In addition to the guides’ time, Michael C. Pastuf, a senior investigator in the Watertown barracks and an organizer of the trip, pointed out that several businesses, American Legion posts and other sponsors came together for the honorees.

“This is lots of people coming together to do the right thing,” he said.

More information about the group can be found at www.nynctat.org.

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