By Dominic Garcia

GEORGETOWN, Colo. (CBS4)– When it comes to ice fishing, Marine veteran Tommy Hicks is hooked.

“There’s a saying in the fishing community, the tug is the drug … and it’s so true,” he told CBS4’s Dominic Garcia.

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(credit: CBS)

A few years back Tommy joined up with the Patriot Anglers, a nonprofit that take veterans fishing. The concept sounds simple but he says the impact can be profound.

“The fishing community is pretty tight, but then when you have so much in common with veterans it’s so easy to make friends. Complete strangers, you’re friends with them right away and there’s like five or six guys I’m like best friends with now,” said Hicks.

ice fishing2 Group Helps Veterans Heal With Ice Fishing

(credit: CBS)

The Patriot Anglers is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization committed to providing outdoor recreation for military and veterans families through fishing. They are comprised of Veterans, military family members, and patriots who possess a unique understanding of the toll that military service can take on a family.

ice fishing Group Helps Veterans Heal With Ice Fishing

(credit: CBS)

Tommy says when you’re out on the ice and in the elements, with nothing but your rod and fellow vet, things start to happen.

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“It’s easy to talk about anything. We can talk about how much you paid for a gallon of milk or we can talk about some serious stuff that happened in Fallujah.”

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(credit: CBS)

Louis Chapman is one of the founders of the Patriot Anglers and says despite the cold conditions, personal connections happen all the time.

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“What makes it special for vets is we can all come back together in really horrible conditions and have a great time and bond. We make the best of it,” he told CBS4.

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(credit: CBS)

Chapman says all of the group’s volunteers have a passion for working with members of the military and their families. He adds they have all experienced, firsthand, the difficulties facing those who choose the military life, but firmly believe that a simple activity, such as fishing, can bring some simplicity back into your life.

ice fishing4 Group Helps Veterans Heal With Ice Fishing

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“Veterans have been able to, because of trips we’ve been on, feel comfortable with us. They have been able to reach out to us in their times of trouble, times of desperation and we can get them the help they need,” he told CBS4’s Dominic Garcia.

Several years after first joining the Patriot Anglers, Hicks is now a guide for the group. He says he’s just happy to share the solace he’s found out on the ice.

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“It’s probably the best psychiatrist anyone can ask for. When you’re out on the water and you’re just focused on catching a fish and you’re with veterans who are similar… it’s just really good for the soul. It’s like going to church you know, it’s incredible.”

The Patriot Anglers, along with their partners, are providing a free day of ice fishing in the Rocky Mountains for all veterans and their support persons. The event is Feb. 17 and is called Vets on Ice. It’s designed to provide both the education, and the equipment necessary for participants to try their hand at ice fishing. The goal of the event is to introduce a healthy and active recreational opportunity to veterans, at no cost.

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Georgetown Lake will play host this year, offering free access to the lake. A fishing license will be required. Lunch, equipment, and fishing instruction will all be provided. In addition, there will be several great fishing giveaways, to include guided fishing expeditions.

LINKS: Vets On Ice at Georgetown

Patriot Anglers

Dominic Garcia anchors CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and reports for CBS4 News at 10 p.m. Connect with the Denver native on Twitter @cbs4dom & on Facebook.

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