BAKER LAKE — Military veterans who return to civilian life can find it difficult fitting in.
They often search for the sort of camaraderie they depended on while in the service, and try to envision a future while finding a way to deal with the past.
That’s where retired Marine Corps gunnery sergeant Rob Macready comes in.
The Birdsview resident is doing his part to give fellow veterans a chance to heal both mentally and physically, to reconnect with not only veterans but also with nature.
He has teamed up with Veteran Outdoors, a Texas-based nonprofit whose mission it is to “demonstrate the therapeutic effects that being in the outdoors actually has on the mental and physical disabilities of our country’s wounded men and women.”
“This combines my two loves, my love of veterans of this country and my love of fishing,” Macready said Aug. 6 while fishing Baker Lake with Army veteran Blaine Anderson. “This fishery is the one I love the most. Mornings out here, there is no other place I want to be.”
Macready offers his time, equipment, services and sometimes even his home in order to give back to those who served this country.
“I get guys up here that are really messed up. But I get them out here, they see the mountains and their worries just melt away,” he said. “It’s gratifying to know you are helping these vets out, letting them get away for a couple of hours.”
Macready’s fishing excursions are provided to veterans free of charge, whether he’s fishing on the Skagit River or Baker Lake, or for chinook or coho salmon at the popular Buoy 10 fishery on the Columbia River.
“I have veterans come from all over, men and women,” Macready said.
Anderson, a 2007 graduate of Sedro-Woolley High School, served six years in the infantry, seeing action in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
The mission in the early morning hours of Aug. 6 was to get Anderson a sockeye salmon or two.
Macready scurried from port to starboard and from bow to stern to prepare his 23-foot customized Alumaweld Super Vee Pro for just that task.
Upon the boat’s gunwales rested four electric down riggers, and just below those an array of electronics. Sitting at the ready, rigged to lure sockeye, were rods at four swivel chairs.
Once the boat, with its nine-horsepower trolling motor and 225-horsepower get-you-where-you-need-to-go-yesterday Mercury outboard, was deemed ready it was time to set out in search of sockeye.
“I retired after 20 years,” Macready said. “But I am still able to serve by doing this. Being involved with Veteran Outdoors, is about being part of that team again. I struggled when I first got out with not being part of that team. I know that feeling. Being outdoors with others, I believe that helps.”
He was putting method into practice with the 30-year-old Anderson.
“He’s my project,” Macready said. “I have to get him on some fish. That can be hard. These fish can get lockjaw.”
Not on this day, however, as Anderson landed the first fish. He was all smiles as the sockeye was netted and hoisted into the boat.
“I fished a little when I was growing up,” Anderson said. “Never fished for sockeye before I went with Rob. Now I have to get a boat so I can do the same thing some day. ... It’s just great to be out here.”