How a Florida Fishing Guide Helped Thousands of Army Veterans

Vets ride for free with Capt. John "GiddyUp" Bunch

Dec 13, 2016
Merchant Marine Capt. John

Merchant Marine Capt. John "GiddyUp" Bunch shows off a snook he and Operation Open Arms participants caught during a day of fishing. (John Bunch)

Captain John “GiddyUp” Bunch loves to go fishing. In fact, Bunch loves fishing so much, that decades ago he became a professional fishing guide and has been one ever since. There is one thing, however, that Bunch loves even more and that is his country and the men and women who fight to protect it. Ever since Bunch met a young soldier in 2005, who wanted to go on a fishing trip before his deployment, the Florida native has offered over 1,200 fishing trips to military veterans - all expenses paid.

And Bunch's efforts to give back to those who have served their nation go even much further. Inspired by that one fishing trip 11 years ago, he founded Operation Open Arms, which has since helped nearly 3,400 US troops and given out more than $12 million in direct benefits with his charity. Operation Open Arms also provides free weddings, vacations, and more leisurely activities to vets, and can rely on a network of over 300 businesses and individual partners to get former soldiers anything they might need upon returning home from combat.

The former Marine's heartwarming generosity is a result of his own experiences in the military and the pride he has for his country. "I do this because I love my country and I do this because America is the greatest country in the world," he told NBC's Today Show. Bunch's unwavering committment goes so far the he once turned down an invitation from then-President George W. Bush, because he had already scheduled a fishing trip with one of his vets. Even the military has recognized Bunch's work of love, and earlier this year honored him and his organization with the Outstanding Civilian Service Medal, the army’s most prestigious civilian award.


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REBECCA WOJNO, CONTRIBUTOR
Rebecca is passionate about reading, cooking, and learning about people doing good in the world. She especially loves writing about wellness, personal growth, and relationships.

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