By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Marlborough – A tradition spanning over 30 years continued on Armed Forces Day, May 19, when the Marlborough Fish & Game Association (MFGA) hosted its annual fishing derby free of charge for military veterans. Most guests arrived by buses from the Brockton and Jamaica Plain divisions of the Veterans Administration Boston Healthcare System, and the Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea. The busloads included veterans, medical staff and volunteers. They were joined by local veterans, some with their families.
Serving as the event chair in recent years is Jason Grimes, MFGA fishing commissioner. “This is a day when our association thanks veterans for their service, gets them out of those hospitals and treats them to a good time outside, fishing – they deserve it,” he said. “Our association has a lot of members that are veterans. This derby is near and dear to their hearts, but they don’t fish on this day; they volunteer to help other veterans.”
The day began with a moment of silence for fallen veterans, followed by everyone saying the Pledge of Allegiance led by Tom Miller of the Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea.
Volunteers prepared a continental breakfast, a barbecue lunch of hamburgers, hotdogs and sausages with ice cream desserts, and snacks throughout the day. Hung on the food and beverage tents were banners proclaiming, “Happy Armed Forces Day” and “Thank you, veterans, for your service to our country.” Food and beverages were donated by Lowe’s Variety & Meat Market, Stop & Shop and Wegmans.
“These guys don’t leave hungry,” Grimes noted.
The pond was stocked with a few hundred trout provided by MassWildlife, North Attleboro National Fish Hatchery, B and G Farms, and MFGA. Each fisher who caught one of four golden trout won $50. MassWildlife also provided fishing instruction and equipment.
“We clean and bag the fish they catch, and let them take as many as they want,” Grimes explained. “They can have someone at the hospital cook the fish for them and their friends.”
The derby is organized by MFGA in partnership with several chapters of the Italian American War Veterans including the Marlborough Post 45. Among this year’s other Marlborough donors were the American Legion Akroyd Houde Post 132, VFW Post 638, Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie 3565 and Moose Family Center 1129, as well as Northborough’s American Legion Vincent F. Picard Post 234.
While the derby’s mission continues as an expression of gratitude to veterans, Grimes has observed the event’s evolution over the years.
“Back in the day, this was mainly for disabled veterans from the hospitals,” he said. “I opened it up to all veterans. You don’t need to have been hurt in action to fish with us on this day. You fought for our country, you can join us. A lot of these guys have been coming here for years and look forward to Armed Forces Day on the third Saturday of May. They enjoy the comradery.”
For more information about MFGA, visit marlborofishandgame.com.