Fish, Fun and Comradery in Mississippi
April 14, 2016
Jeanne Graeser lost everything in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina. Fortunately for Jeanne, there were amazing volunteers who came to her aid to offer support. Not financial support. Support by way of manpower to help her clear her property, hugs, chats, an extra hand… Support that Jeanne was so very grateful for having.
“It made me realize they were helping me make a difference in my life. It was awesome,” says Jeanne.
Those volunteers had such an impact on her life that she decided to pay it forward.
“I took that and applied it to our deployed soldiers. I wanted to make a difference in their lives like that these people made in mine.” – Jeanne
So she joined joined Soldiers’ Angels with her sister.
“They called us the two grannies.” Which is how Jeanne got her nickname, Granny. Granny started by sending deployed soldiers care packages and letters through our Deployed Adoptions Team. She’s adopted hundreds of deployed soldiers and loves to encourage them. She invites all of her adoptees to “Come on over to Granny’s for Granny Gumbo” when they come home.
“No one really ever takes me up on it though,” Granny says.
Granny lives in Clermont Harbor, Mississippi three blocks from the beach. One of her adoptees was having a difficult time during his deployment after being hospitalized for a while. As soon as she found out he loved fishing she started sending him all kinds of fishing things. Bobbers, fishing magazines, fishing Christmas ornaments… “anything fishin’.” She also promised him she’d take him on a fishing trip when he came home.
Well guess what? He took her up on it! The day of the trip Granny noticed that he was extremely stressed. According to Granny, “Once he hit a fish, his body language changed and his eyes lit up. I thought to myself, ‘Old woman, you’ve got something here! You can make a difference’.”
After that first trip, Granny started talking to charter boat captains to organize more. She started with Captain Sonny Schindler of Shore Thing Charters and eventually, more charter boat captains started joining.
She calls these Fish n’ Fun trips. The vets love them! The reason they are so effective is because it gets them out of the moment. It allows peace, which can help with post traumatic stress. It’s also important that they get to spend time with other veterans who have been through what they have been through. Who they can talk to.
“It’s amazing to see these guys go out. They love to be together,” Granny says.
She doesn’t just organize fishing trips though. She hosts luncheons and dinners at Fort Hood and at the VA, and events for senior veterans and wounded warriors. In fact, she doesn’t just volunteer for Soldiers’ Angels, she also volunteers through an organization called the Combat Wounded Veterans of South Mississippi.
With everything that she does, she also makes sure to involve as many civilians as possible so they can see what soldiers and their families go through. We love Granny and all that she does for the troops and for our veterans!