Catching a big fish! Submitted photo

TURNER — From 2017 to 2018, the average number of veteran suicides per day rose from 17.5 to 17.6, according to National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report. Daniel Waite, a veteran and Registered Maine Guide, decided to take action. He created a non-profit organization called Operation Reboot Outdoors for all veterans, LEOs, service members, and anyone who serves honorably (first time responders/EMT).

Together, they go on fishing and hunting trips. However, the purpose is not the fishing or the hunting. The purpose is being around like-minded individuals, and to be outdoors, in a place where one could be away from the fast-pace world, and get that peacefulness back. The purpose was the comradery among the fellow veteran or service member. The purpose was to reboot oneself, the way one would charge a cell phone, except this experience can happen as many times as needed. It is more than a friendship or community; it is a family.

“I’ve developed lifelong family through this,” Waite says. “It [has] a family atmosphere. By the end of the day, it’s like you’ve know each other [your] whole life.”

Waite describes how pivotal it is that the country does not ignore the mental health of the heroes of its communities, but that it helps them get better.

“I take so much pride, and I care so much about these guys and girls. It’s worth it. It saved me. It pulled me out of the darkness….[there are] 22 veterans and law enforcement [who] commit suicide each day…the support system lies within each of us.”

Waite talks about how during the war each of them would take a bullet for another. Now, they were fighting a different war, and acting as a support system.

“Twenty-two a day commit suicide. Our mission is to change that number,” says Bethel-based veteran Jeff Patneaude, retired Maine Guide and owner operator of swift river guide. “We are getting them out into the great outdoors and showing them they can take part in activities like hunting and fishing, or hiking, prospecting, or just a boat ride. Whatever it takes! I have taken vets that have caught their biggest fish of their lives.”

In March 2021, there was the event, “ORO Welcome Home Ice Fishing Derby at Roxbury Pond.” More than 1,000 people showed up to Ellis Pond in Roxbury, and $63,000 was raised and put back into Operation Reboot, the non-profit organization run by volunteers. Notably, Mike Roe donated a$20,000 side by side. Seven hundred and eight-three fishermen/women showed up. Operation Reboot had ensured the roads were cleared.

Operation Reboot will be expanding and localizing out to Bethel, as well as other towns in the near future.

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