American Heroes Fishing Challenge Monday on National Geographic Channel
Got an email from one of my buddies from Afghanistan last night. A fellow Massachusian, he and I used to get up in the middle of the night to watch Sox games when we weren't outside the wire. Anyway, his wife is a tutor for kids in Washington DC, and is especially proud of one of her students, Jack Nixon. And with good reason. So, if you are sitting around on Monday evening, or like me you have DVR, give this a watch:
After seeing a story about severely injured veterans in Afghanistan, 11-year-old Jack Nixon said, “I wish those guys could fish. It would change their life; they would love it.” With Jack’s idea came the American Heroes Fishing Challenge. And lives changed.
In the one-hour special American Heroes Fishing Challenge, which premieres Memorial Day, Monday, May 27, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on the National Geographic Channel, follow a group of recently wounded veterans from the war in Afghanistan working to jump-start the healing process … by going fishing.
The film features original music by seven-time Grammy-winning singer-songwriter John Mayer, who has dedicated himself to helping veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan readjust to life after deployment. Mayer says, “Seeing to it that we care for our returning veterans is quite possibly our biggest collective duty as a nation.”
American Heroes Fishing Challenge climbs onboard fishing vessels to experience the "thrill of the catch" with severely wounded active duty military. They’ll travel from Walter Reed and Fort Belvoir military hospitals to New England to compete with 3,000 others in the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby.
Some are just days out of surgery, while others are taking their first steps outdoors on new legs, but they stop at nothing in their efforts to win the annual fishing tradition. At sea, there are no doctors, no physical therapy appointments and no drama (except for the brash banter between competing teams!).
The line-up includes Spc. Dylan Waugh, a soldier who nearly died a few months ago in an IED explosion and is now gripping a fishing pole; 1st Lt. Army Ranger Nathan Rimpf, walking on sand for the first time since losing his legs; and Pvt. Colton Wiley, a young Army infantryman shot through the legs after only two weeks in Afghanistan, who now gets to see the ocean for the first time.
Wiley boasts, “I am gonna get out and do everything, even if I am in a chair forever. I’m determined I’m gonna win. I am going to catch that big fish, I promise.” Waugh, in turn, explains, “Combat was my adrenaline — I loved everything about it. Fishin’ and combat kinda go hand in hand. Game on.” Rimpf, 24, of North Carolina, lost his legs in Afghanistan last July, but two months later he was onboard legendary captain Buddy Vanderhoop’s “Tomahawk.” He describes the experience and its impact on his life: “I’ve loved to fish my whole life. Walking down the dock on my new legs and climbing into that famous fishing boat gave me the profound sense that life could return to normal.”
Jack Nixon’s idea became reality when his parents, Bob and Sarah Nixon — also the filmmakers — worked with him to secure boat and fuel donations from enthusiastic Menemsha charter captains and garner the endorsement of Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby. The Vineyard’s Beach Plum Inn donated rooms, and others came forward with funding and transportation. The Walter Reed and Fort Belvoir military hospitals endorsed the experiment in “extreme” saltwater therapy. Soon, the American Heroes Fishing Challenge was underway, pairing wounded warriors with legendary charter captains who are competing for the winning fish.
Says Bob Nixon, the film’s director, “Our goal was to capture the extraordinary can-do spirit of our military, while revealing how the challenges of a week of hardcore fishing on the Atlantic and the grateful embrace of an entire island jump starts their recovery.”
As we follow their fishing exploits, the veterans share their stunning commitment to service, harrowing war experiences and their challenges on the long road to recovery.
American Heroes Fishing Challenge is narrated by comedian/actor and long-time Vineyarder Lenny Clarke, whose wife Jennifer Clarke is the award-winning captain of the “Femme Fatale,” featured in the film.