This is a great event for those of you in the Bay Area who want to support a great cause for our veterans. This report also appears in the March issue of California Sportsman:
By Chris Cocoles
Randy Houston has gained quite a perspective from those veterans he’s arranged fishing and hunting trips for.
He started his nonprofit organization, Purple Heart Anglers, as a tribute to his older brother, Jerry, a decorated Vietnam War veteran who passed away in 2011 (California Sportsman, November 2014). The organization has gotten even bigger since, and the cause will be celebrated when the Bay Area-based group hosts a fundraising dinner in Foster City on March 18.
“It’s tough to put into words what this does for people,” Houston says of his organization. “I know that it’s changed my life. I’ve been an egotistical, self-centered individual my whole life, and these guys have humbled me just by their courage and their attitude and gratitude. You’ll see a guy who’s sitting in a wheelchair and has been shot defending us. That’s (inspiring).”
Purple Heart Anglers (purpleheartanglers.org) has planned several outings to fish and hunt in Northern California, and last September Houston arranged to send a handful of veterans who won a drawing to fish in Ketchikan, Alaska (raffle tickets will be sold at this month’s banquet to help bring another group there this summer). A Costa Rica marlin fishing excursion is being planned for April, as is a future Hawaii trip in addition to the local outings organized on a monthly basis by some new volunteers.
“We’ve got what they could call ‘trips of a lifetime,’” says Houston, who admits even for him that Purple Heart Anglers has been quite the life-changing experience.
He didn’t want to get into too many details about the veterans he’s befriended, but in many instances the conversations have floored him. These are men and women who went through hell in combat and some have struggled to live a normal life.
At the same time, Houston has seen so many who come out to fish in the Delta or hunt pheasants in the San Joaquin Valley find some peace just being in the outdoors with many others who can relate to similar trauma.
“I was sitting at a table (after a turkey hunt) with one of the guys and he told me, ‘You have no idea how this has affected me.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘Four weeks ago I was sitting with a pistol in my mouth.’ Fortunately, things had changed.”
That’s why this fundraiser is so important. It raises funds to make these trips – the local one and the out-of-state adventures – available, an integral part of what Purple Heart Anglers is all about and has been able to accomplish.
“The food that we’re putting on the table, we have salmon, halibut, cod and pheasant – and it’s stuff that’s been harvested by our guys and gals,” Houston says. “So we’re giving back in that way.”
The organization grew from modest expectations, when Houston simply wanted to honor brother Jerry by cheering up some of our country’s war heroes by introducing them to the outdoors. With these big trips now in the mix, and hopefully more to come after this month’s fundraiser, it’s become even bigger than that.
More and more volunteers have come aboard to assist Houston’s vision. He estimates the annual fishing and hunting trips have included about 1,500 participants who served in the armed forces.
“It’s one of those things that I’m not so surprised about, but I’m also astonished,” Houston says. “It’s just become so much enthusiasm for so many different people.” CS
PURPLE HEART ANGLERS FUNDRAISING BANQUET
When: March 18
Where: Lagoon Room at the Foster City Recreation Building,
650 Shell Blvd., Foster City
Tickets: $75 for dinner for one; $125 per couple; $1,600 for sponsors table (up to eight guests)
Information: purpleheartanglers.org; (415) 370-9930 and email@example.com
Noteworthy: Live and silent auctions will be held, with lots
of raffle prizes also awarded. San Mateo County Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D) will be the featured guest.