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Veterans organizing fishing tournament to help ailing friend

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Posted at 5:00 PM, Feb 03, 2022

PORTLAND, Texas — A pair of local veterans are throwing a fundraiser this weekend to help a friend battling cancer.

This friend is a friend to all veterans, often volunteering his time to help. Now he's getting help in the fight of his life.

“Our whole life revolves around fishing," said Chuck Garrett. "We really, really love it.”

These days Garrett can't spend as much time fishing as he'd like because he's busy battling cancer. Last year, Chuck was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer at the base of his tongue.

“It sounds scary,” said Chuck’s wife Nina Garrett.

“It certainly does, and that's the second time I've heard that,” Chuck added. “It's definitely life-changing.”

While his cancer was life-changing, Chuck and Nina have changed a lot of lives themselves.

“The man and his wife, they both have hearts of gold,” said U.S. Navy veteran James Mathison. “They're just salt-of-the-earth people; they'll give you the shirt off their back.”

Mathison met the Garretts as Heroes on the Water volunteers. As we’ve reported on Veterans in Focus, the group takes veterans with physical and emotional wounds on fishing adventures.

“That's really healing for them,” said Garrett. “And it's healing for us.”

Even though he volunteers with Heroes on the Water and OATH, The Outdoor Association for True Heroes, Garrett isn't a veteran. However, he and Nina believe the time and effort spent helping veterans is the least they can do.

“We spend a lot of hours, a lot of time, and a lot of effort, but it never seems like — it's not a job,” Nina said.

“They're just really giving people and, as veterans, it's our pleasure to give back to someone who's given to us,” said U.S. Navy veteran Russell McIlwain.

When McIlwain heard about Garrett's diagnosis, he wanted to help. His idea: a fishing tournament, with proceeds going to the Garretts.

McIlwain and Mathison went to work organizing the event, which starts at 6 a.m. at Living Reel Salty Bait Shop in Portland.

“It's just an amazing opportunity to give back to somebody who never asks for anything,” McIlwain said.

The event also includes a raffle with tens of thousands of dollars in donated prizes, including a fishing trip to Cabo San Lucas, hunting experiences, and much more.

As for the Garretts, this humble couple is blown away by the generosity of others.

“What we're doing must be right, and it's really validation of what we're doing and that we're living our lives the right way,” Chuck said.

The Garretts say they want to make the tournament an annual event, with proceeds from future tournaments benefiting other families in need.

More Veterans In Focus stories are available here, along with resources for local veterans.