KTVA: Inside the Gates: Getting military kids fishing on the Kenai

Fishing on the Kenai River is one of the most treasured experiences Alaska has to offer.

Many military youth in Anchorage never get the chance to get out of the city and into a boat on the river, but the Kenai River Jr. Classic casts a wide net trying to bring as many kids as possible down to the peninsula. 

"This is an opportunity to introduce kids to not only fishing, but to the beauty, the majesty of the Kenai River," Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the honorary host, said. "What we've been doing over the years is working with JBER, working with some of the kids organizations here on the peninsula to bring kids out."

Not only do kids get to fish, but they also get an education on water and fishing safety.

"It's a great opportunity and it’ll be something they'll always remember," said Executive Officer for the 176th Wing Maj. Jeremy Jensen. "Everybody we brought from Anchorage they have to have a parent or sponsor that's been in the military or is in the military."

It's a free day of fishing for the youth that is paid for by sponsors and donations.

"This sporting event is a fantastic way, not only to show appreciation to the dependents of military members serving in Alaska, but it’s a great way of introducing them in how to be good sportsmen and getting them interested," said Lt. Gen. Thomas Bussiere, commander of the Alaskan North American Aerospace Defense Command Region. "Whether it’s hunting or fishing, in this case fishing, it's something that will last a lifetime."

The event isn't only for military children. Kids who live on the peninsula also participate in the event.

"To know that there’s so many kids here on the Kenai Peninsula who have this river in their backyard but who don't have that opportunity," Murkowski said. "Their families don't have access to a boat, or to the gear or the parents just don't fish or it's just not part of their opportunity.”

Near Denali, a similar kind of event honoring our service members. A dozen members of the military, active duty and veterans, are spending time along the Denali Highway fly fishing.

"You could just see the excitement in their face when they caught that first fish," retired U.S. Coast Guard Master Chief Stephen Murphy said. "It was really wonderful to see. The nervousness in the hands and the big smile on their face as they’re trying to get that fish in."

Both events have similar goals: to give back and show appreciation for those who serve the country.

By:  Scott Gross
Source: KTVA