CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) – We’re focused on a dream come true for a local non-profit that uses fishing to help military veterans struggling with PTSD.
“It’s been eight months in the making,” said Rich Segarra, founder of Operation Vets with Nets.
10 On Your Side introduced you to Segarra in December of 2022. His organization takes military veterans out on the waters of Lake Gaston for a day of fishing. It’s a way to help veterans find peace after the battlefield.
“We want to meet every need no matter what the circumstances are,” said Segarra.
When we last spoke with Segarra, his goal was to get a wheelchair-accessible boat. Just weeks ago, Operation Vets with Nets met that goal thanks to generous donations and volunteers.
“It’s bringing tears to my eyes, because we’re able to meet that need and take care of our vets.”
Retired Sgt. First Class Robert Satterwhite was the first veteran to head out on the new boat.
“It was so cool after we did the dedication, and we’re getting him on the boat. He’s got one of the biggest wheelchairs they make, with these big, mudding tires, and he rolled right up the ramp. He got right in the spot. We tied him down. He shook it, shook it, made sure he was secured, and the day was phenomenal,” said Segarra.
Segarra says Satterwhite was instrumental in making sure the boat is just right.
“He helped me during the planning process making sure the boat was ADA compliant. He told me all the rules and laws.”
During the trip, Segarra, who is a retired veteran himself, says Satterwhite’s wheelchair didn’t budge.
“During that time there was a bass tournament going on, so a lot of boats were passing us pretty fast causing a lot of rocking and rolling, and he brought that up and said, ‘I did not move an inch.'”
He asked Satterwhite what should be changed to make the boat, and the experience, better.
“He said, ‘Rich, do not change a thing.’ He goes, ‘The access getting on the boat was perfect. Where you put the mounts to tie the wheelchair down was perfect.'”
Ever the perfectionist, Segarra promises more to come to help those who have given so much to us all.
“We still have a good long ways to go. There’s other things that we want to continue doing with it.”
Segarra says Operation Vets with Nets wants to put $12,000-$13,000 more into the boat to help make things even more convenient for those on board the pontoon boat. The next mission is to make the boat, and fishing, even better for amputees.
Another goal is to get a boat, and volunteers, to operate in the waters of Hampton Roads. Donations and volunteers make this all possible. If you’re interested in helping, click here.