Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 23

At the Veterans Fishing Organization,
our goal is to make a difference in the
lives of veterans-physically and
emotionally-one at a time.

COURTESY KEN BEARDEN

-vfohome.org

COURTESY VETERANS FISHING ORGANIZATION

Left: Ken Bearden, right, makes the safety of all passengers his top
priority. He was even able to accommodate 91-year-old Navy veteran
and Sharpsburg resident George Martin and his wheelchair.

KEN BEARDEN

Above: Ken Bearden says he thought life as a professional bull rider
was "living the American dream," but now he realizes the importance
of the military in protecting that way of life.

Richard DuPont says he returned from his time in the Marines only to
be "spat upon and cursed for having served in Vietnam." He says he
finds healing by "just being on the water with somebody who
appreciates the veterans."

A life-changing friendship
Fishing was also how Bearden met a friend who gave his
life new purpose. Joe Gilham was a Vietnam vet, but Bearden
didn't know that at first.
"For about the first four or five years, Joe never spoke of it at
all," he says.
As the years went by, Gilham would tell Bearden things
about his military service, a little at a time. Then Gilham shared
something else: He had Lou Gehrig's disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a degenerative muscle condition linked to Agent
Orange.

Eventually, Bearden noticed something Gilham wasn't
saying. If he couldn't join Gilham to go fishing, Gilham didn't
go on his own, either.
"I realized he was losing more and more of his ability to be
able to [fish] on his own," Bearden says. "And so I told my wife,
'Anytime Joe wants to go fishing, I'm going to take him,'" even
if it meant turning down the guided fishing trips that were his
livelihood.
Bearden saw his friend through his final days and upheld
his promise to visit Gilham's wife, Marie, after his death. During
one of those visits, she explained what those fishing trips meant
to Gilham-and to her.
Depressed and weakened by his illness, Gilham had
withdrawn from friends and refused to even sit outside. But his
wife told Bearden that when he invited Gilham to go fishing,
"Joe would light up. Next thing [she] knew, he's out there in the
garage getting his rods together ... It put the life back in him,"
Bearden says.
Then, Marie Gilham told him something else. "She said,
'I'm sure there's thousands of other veterans in the same shape
that need to get out, but they're not physically, [financially] or
even mentally able to do it," he says.
www.georgiamagazine.org

23


http://www.vfohome.org http://www.georgiamagazine.org

Georgia Magazine - November 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia Magazine - November 2020

Contents
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - Intro
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - Cover1
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - Cover2
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - Contents
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 4
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 5
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 6
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 7
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 8
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 9
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 10
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 11
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 12
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 13
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 14
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 15
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 16
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 17
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 18
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 19
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 20
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 21
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 22
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 23
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 24
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 25
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 26
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 27
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 28
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 29
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 30
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 31
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 32
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 33
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 34
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 35
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 36
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 37
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - 38
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - Cover3
Georgia Magazine - November 2020 - Cover4
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