Former and Wounded Marines Pair with Pro Angler, Dave Wolak for 22nd annual Bataan Memorial Death March in New Mexico
Las Cruces, N.M. — Winner of two Bassmaster tournaments, 2005 Bassmaster rookie of the year, Dave Wolak, will trade in his rod and reel for a pair of military combat boots and a 40 lb. ruck sack next month.
Wolak, 5-time Bassmaster Classic Qualifier has supported and participated in an annual fishing tournament for wounded warriors at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital the past two years.
The Marines Helping Marines Fishing Tournament was been held at Lake Hopatcong, N.J. in both 2009 and 2010 and allowed nearly a dozen wounded military veterans the opportunity to pair up with a professional or semi-pro angler to compete in a bass fishing tournament.
The proceeds from the event are donated to the 501(c) 3 charity Marines Helping Marines which provides support for wounded military personnel and their families.
Next month, Wolak will pair up with a pair of former Marines and one wounded Marine to compete in the 22nd annual Bataan Memorial Death March. The march is 26.2 mile full marathon in the sandy desert of New Mexico.
The team will march with military boots on while carrying a 40 lb. military ruck sack, competing against more than 6,000 other participants.
The five man team will be raising money for the third annual Marines Helping Marines Fishing Tournament which is scheduled to take place at Anchor Marina in North East, Maryland on May 21.
“I am doing the Bataan March because a couple years ago I felt it was time for me to give back a little considering my good fortune….after all I make a living do what I love, fishing. That is why I volunteered to help in the Marines Helping Marines first annual event three years ago, and continue to help in what it led to in the future,” Wolak said.
“I always felt it was difficult for a person to find a cause that he or she feels connected to or passionate about, that is also in many ways connected to what you do for a living. With that in mind, the funds we raise by us doing things like the March go to a fund that helps wounded and recovering soldiers enjoy and share the same emotional sense of euphoria and serenity I get from recreationally enjoying the outdoors,” he said.
Wolak is not new to participating in physically challenging events like Bataan. He recently competed in his first marathon and strives to fit competitive running events into his busy tournament and sponsor promotion schedule
Marine Corps Major Justin Constantine is the wounded warrior the team has chosen to embrace in the competition.
Constantine was shot through the back of the skull by a sniper in Iraq in 2006. The bullet tore through his skull just behind his left ear, smashed his jaw, and exited through his right cheek. He had been in Iraq just 6 weeks. He has since had bone removed from both of his fibulas, in his legs, to reconstruct his upper and lower jaws, and had bone and bone marrow from his hip grafted into his mouth.
The team is calling their fundraising event “Walk for the Wounded.”
Event organizer, Eric Kowal said, “We really do not care if it takes us seven hours or 17 hours to cross the finish line. We are staying together as a team with one common goal to provide inspiration and hope to all our wounded military personnel around the globe.”
“Being injured can be devastating, but it doesn’t mean your life is over,” Kowal said.
Two years ago when the fishing tournament first took place Kowal met a Marine who he said gave him inspiration and motivation to keep putting events like this one on.
Corporal Larry Draughn (Lance Corporal at the time of the event) was severely injured in Afghanistan in 2009.
He lost both of his legs and several fingers from an explosion over Memorial Day weekend of that year.
“10 weeks later, Larry was at our fishing tournament. I really had no idea what to expect, and no idea that somebody could come back from an injury like that in such a short period of time.”
Draughn was paired up with Wolak in the inaugural fishing event and two spent the day talking to the media about the importance of events like the Marines Helping Marines Fishing Tournament.
Kowal and Draughn have become great friends and Draughn even asked Kowal to visit the hospital last year to promote him in ceremony in front of his family, friends and a platoon of other wounded Marines.”
“That was one of the most memorable moments of my life,” Kowal said. “He could have had anyone promote him, anyone in the world, but he asked me. You don’t make friends like that every day.”
You can help make a donation to sponsor the Walk for the Wounded and the Marines Helping Marines Fishing Tournament by contacting Eric Kowal at Semper Fi Marketing at 570-350-2818 or visit them on the web at www.semperfimarketing.com
Product sponsorships for the fishing tournament are also needed as the number of participants grows each year.
This year’s tournament will be held on Armed Forces Day, May 21, at the Anchor Marina in North East, MD.