By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s Flag Day and the U.S. Army is celebrating its 243rd birthday. That meant a special celebration on Lake Minnetonka this morning.

“It’s very relaxing after a long week just to take my girls out and get out of the house,” said Terry Gay.

For his youngest daughters, it’s their first time stepping onto a pontoon, and their first time with a fishing pole in their hands. Gay’s military family was among 150 people who set off from Lord Fletcher’s for a morning on Lake Minnetonka and a much-deserved day off.

“I’ve been deployed to Iraq 3 times and to Kuwait once,” he said. “I’ve been in it 16 years and I’ve seen a lot of changes. It’s a great organization to be a part of. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

“Came out of Afghanistan with a vision to build Fishing for Life,” said organizer Tom Goodrich.

Tom was wounded while serving in Afghanistan. His organization partnered with Minneapolis and St. Paul Recruiting Battalions to make this day possible. Before fishing, the Color Guard dressed in military uniforms reminiscent of 1776, and 9 new recruits were sworn in.

Afterwards, the oldest veteran and the youngest recruit cut the Army’s birthday cake together.

“Many of these guys, like myself, have generations of serving. Grandfather, great grandfather, the whole deal,” Goodrich said.

The recruits will head off to boot camp this summer. But before they put on a uniform, they’ll put on a leech or a minnow and celebrate 243 years of proud history.

“Honestly, I just want them to get a day of rest. Catch some fish. Do something together, job one. Then just being together in the spirit of the Corps helps too,” Goodrich said.

Organizers also wanted to thank the 50 boat guides that volunteered their time to make the event possible.

John Lauritsen