International athletes enjoy “American Experience Day” at 2018 Marine Corps Trials

March 19, 2018

International athletes participating in the 2018 Marine Corps Trials went fishing at Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island, N.C., March 14, 2018, as part of the USO of North Carolina’s “American Experience Day.”

The Marine Corps Trials is a Paralympic-style adaptive sports event hosted by the Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment, which promotes recovery and rehabilitation through adaptive sport participation and develops camaraderie among recovering service members (RSMs) and veterans. It is as an opportunity for RSMs to demonstrate their achievements and serves as the primary venue to select Marine Corps participants for the DoD Warrior Games.

Athletes from Australia, Georgia and Germany took time out of their schedule to enjoy a day of fishing and camaraderie with the USO of North Carolina and Operation North State, both non-profit military support organizations which host numerous recreational outings for veterans throughout the year.

The fishing trip was a great chance for the international athletes to get off base and experience a piece of America before the upcoming competitions, according to John Falkenbury, president and CEO of the USO of North Carolina.

“[The Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment] asked if there was something we could do for the international service members that would show them the American experience,” said Falkenbury. “Fishing is really unique, particularly off the pier, so we reached out to Operation North State who does this around the state, and I asked if they can pull something together.”

Operation North State did just that, bringing together local fishermen, law enforcement, firefighters and other members from around the community to volunteer.

The opportunity to put together a community event for international veterans was an honor, said Terry Snyder, founder and CEO of Operation North State.

“It means a lot to be a part of this,” said Snyder. “We can only imagine the fighting they’ve done side by side with our [troops], so we absolutely want to give back. When we were asked to do it, we knew we could do it, we knew we could pull the community together, so we said, ‘absolutely we want to do it.’”

Though there weren’t many fish caught, the day went off without a hitch. It was truly a day about camaraderie.

“I’m very pleased [with how the day has gone],” said Snyder. “We knew it was early in the fishing year so there weren’t going to be a lot of fish caught. We were hoping it’d be more about the friendship, the fellowship, getting them out here, and seeing some of North Carolina. We didn’t want it to be just about what they caught.”

At the end of the day, the athletes felt the camaraderie amongst one another and had a good time.

“It’s been brilliant,” said Australia Army Maj. George Acheson-Thom, a member of the Australian team. “We got a great warm welcome and awesome hospitality from the folks here. We’re really looking forward to getting into the games.”