Welcoming back to land

Volunteers hold flags of different military branches as fishing boats come in during the afternoon of the ninth annual “Salmon Salute” in Ridgefield Sept. 8.

The Ridgefield Marina played host to the ninth annual “Salmon Salute” put on by local veterans support groups over the weekend, filling dozens of fishing boats with law enforcement and current and former military in an effort to bring camaraderie among service members.

The annual event had local fishing guides taking vets and law enforcement out on the Columbia River for a day on the water Sept. 8. Spearheaded by Ridgefield resident Dion Hess, the annual event has the support of the Community Military Appreciation Committee as well as The Fallen Outdoors, a nationwide group with strong Southwest Washington representation that sponsors outdoor excursions for veterans free of charge.

Fallen Outdoors Washington Team Lead Andrew Morton said that whereas the first year of the event started with four boats, he estimated about 35 took part in the weekend’s event, including some that headed to Astoria that day. Though the weather was somewhat rainy it managed to stay agreeable upon the boats’ return, allowing participants to enjoy a dry lunch with a cooler temperature compared to 2018’s affair, Morton said.

Morton said this year state officials shut down the Chinook fishing season earlier than usual, though participants were still able to catch coho salmon. Regardless of whether participants were able to catch anything, he pointed to the fellowship that being out on the water with fellow service members can provide either way. 

“Fishing’s very therapeutic,” Morton remarked. “When you’re out there talking to your brothers and sisters at arms, you’re at home, so to say.”

Veterans and first responders included Carl Lingenfelter, a Clark County resident and World War II veteran who celebrated his 100th birthday this year. The event featured a few speeches by members of The Fallen Outdoors, Hess and others including West Point graduate and former fire support officer in Afghanistan Elyse Ping Medvigy, who, like Morton, touched on the connection that those who have served share.

“I always come back to the brotherhood and sisterhood that I have here,” Ping Medvigy said. “It transcends different generations, different branches; I feel like we have a lot in common and we can always share a lot of stories.”

Ping Medvigy’s father, Clark County Councilor Gary Medvigy, also spoke, pointing to the importance of supporting veterans as evidenced by the supporters of the event.

“Of all the places I have lived, I have never met and seen more patriotic people than here in Clark County,” Medvigy remarked.

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