Jun 26, 2019 04:18PM
by michael tummillo | photos by studio 1401 and provided by reel thanx
Every so often, we hear about a need in our society that's being met by caring individuals, people who restore faith in mankind and make us feel proud, even blessed, to know someone's heart was touched enough to do something with the benefit of others in mind.
Mike Mundy is one of those people. He was in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. Five of his friends from Colorado City were killed in that conflict. “The way our troops were treated when they came back was a dishonor to our country and to them,” he lamented.
In September 2007, Mike said he felt the desire to take a veteran on a fishing trip. “I contacted Terry Johnson and asked if he knew of anybody. He got back in touch and asked how many I could take!”
So it was that Reel Thanx was launched in September 2007 with the goal of giving honor due to the military of this generation. As Founder, Mike wanted to make sure the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who served in American wars were never again neglected as they'd been in the past. As Mike put it, “Reel Thanx was started to show them the honor and respect they so rightly deserved.” He added, “This was God's will.”
Reel Thanx is a non-profit organization, hosting quarterly fishing trips for active duty and retired service men and women who have been wounded in action. So, what is the criteria for being chosen to participate in a Reel Thanx outing? According to Director Terry Brown, “Their only requirement is that they had to have served in combat and are wounded, ill, or injured from that service in action. Or those who have completed a high level of deployments (10 +). That kind of service takes a hard toll on the individual and the family. We just want to extend this opportunity. Administrator Katy Jordan sends the applications and does the reviews, and the Board approves the applicants. Katy is our only paid employee.”
In fact, because Reel Thanx is a non-profit organization, 95 percent of all financial support received goes to the direct benefit of the applicants. The Board of Directors and advisors to Reel Thanx are all volunteers with the great desire to give back to these brave Americans.
“All funds are used for the soldiers,” Terry continued. “Volunteers share their own homes, use of their own boats, gasoline, and there are volunteer cooking teams that provide all the meals. Friday morning we are escorted out of town to go to the lake and volunteers with Riders 4 Fighters, another Midland organization, put out about 1,000 flags at Green Tree Country Club. Midland County Sheriff’s Department and the Patriot Guard Riders, along with Northeast Midland County Fire Department, escort us through town. We drive by the Midland Fire Department and they greet us, along with Riders 4 Fighters lined up along North Midland Drive.” He added, “These soldiers have gone from hospital to hospital since leaving the battlefield and, suddenly, they're receiving all this approval. It can be quite emotional, even for us on the Reel Thanx team.”
Ozona has started participating, too. “Every trip,” said Terry, “they escort us when we arrive there and serve us lunch at the school with all the students waving flags.”
Another outreach of Reel Thanx is the Reel Wives. They express appreciation to the women who served just by being a source of strength and motivation while their soldier was off to war. “Twice each year, for R&R, the Reel Wives get together and provide care packages, flowers, give the ladies pedicures and manicures, spas, shopping trips, buy cowboy boots; they even celebrate parties they may have missed when their spouses were deployed. There are lots of volunteers working behind the scenes to make these events happen. The Reel Wives conduct their own fundraisers, raising money for the wives and answer to the Reel Thanx Board.”
“We want to be good stewards of the money we receive,” he emphasized, “making sure it's used for the soldiers and wives.” Money? Reel Thanx reeled-in nearly $80,000 - their normal budget for one year – all in one day at their 9th Annual Sporting Clay Shoot held at Windwalker Farms in Midland. Corporate sponsors were invited to shoot with the soldiers.
Mike Hutt just participated in another of many trips during the most recent event. He came for the first time as an honoree on the thirteenth trip, and his wife participated later. “We were living in San Antonio when my wife took part in the Reel Wives trip,” he said. “I was declared to be 'not fit for service' after seventeen years and it was such a joy to be around so much generosity, loyalty, patriotism and appreciation when we got to Midland.”
Overwhelmed by the people and the esprit de corps, the Hutts loved it so much, they relocated to Midland. Hutt said, “Four people have moved to Midland after attending an event, overwhelmed by all the love they received. Every trip, alumni are welcomed back. They pay their own travel, but two or three alumni always participate. They just want to give back.”
Since moving to Midland, Mike Hutt has volunteered with Reel Thanx for several years as an advisor to the organization and now serves as a Director on their board.
For those who don't know, it's estimated that twenty-two veterans commit suicide every day in America. When Hutt was asked about this, he stated, “Reel Thanx spreads enough love that I knew I had a place of acceptance when I reached that all-time low. If we can help one guy who's in a bad place and prevent him, or her, from going down that road, we call that a success.”
When asked his opinion about the high rate of suicides when there are places available like Reel Thanx who want to help, Hutt said, “Personally, I think that's because it's scary and embarrassing to be in that position. It's a low place and very dark. You're afraid of how people will react. At Reel Thanx, we show love, Christianity, fellowship and different programs that will help them.”
Originally from Illinois, he added, “If I could take every guy I served with and show them Midland, they would be glad to know there are some really great people out here who really care.”
Terry shared, “Whether a vet has survived traumatic brain injury, massive burns, a double amputee, etcetera, our base camp is handicap- accessible. If a participant can't fit in a bass boat, we have a pontoon boat where we've listed all the names of every soldier we've taken out with us, over 200 names.”
Hutt said, “No matter which branch of the military a person served in, no matter whether they were a General or a Buck Private, we don't concern ourselves with former rank. We don't concern ourselves with politics here. This is all about healing.”
Where female vets are concerned, they are welcomed to participate as well, and volunteers from Reel Wives will assist them and tend to their needs.
A final thought: The body of water where the Reel Thanx crew conducts their outreach is called Lake Amistad, a Spanish word for friendship. How appropriate!
Would you be interested taking part in a Reel Thanx weekend? Perhaps you'd like to volunteer or join the Reel Thanx Sponsorship team. Maybe you know someone who proudly served our nation's military and, now, they need assistance. You can learn more about Reel Thanx at their website, www.reelthanx.org, or call Katy Jordan at 281-728-2770.