Lowen Nunn had never caught a fish through the ice.
Nunn, a disabled veteran, had been ice fishing twice in his life, but never had a bite. That all changed recently thanks to a new Helena nonprofit called Helena’s Got Your 6.
“My wife found them on Facebook and asked if I was interested, and I thought, “Why not?’” he said.
Nunn headed to Seeley Lake with a new group of friends and northern pike as the main target. He purchased a pink child’s fishing pole a few years earlier with the hopes of giving it to a young aspiring angler, and was excited to let the daughter of one of the organizers use it. Of course, it was when the girl went to the restroom that the first pike hit on the little pink pole, and soon Nunn reeled it through the hole.
“It was absolutely fabulous, just some of the nicest people anyone would want to meet, and they took great care of me,” he said.
It is an experience he hopes other veterans will take advantage of.
“I’d not only recommend it, I’d tell them ‘If you don’t go, you’re crazy,’” he said. “It just did so much for me.”
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It was around last Veterans Day that a veteran friend of Becky Hunsicker and Kyle Nelson came on hard times in dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. They decided to hold a fundraiser to defray some financial needs, and borne from that was Helena’s Got Your 6. The name comes from the military expression “I’ve got your six,” meaning “I’ve got your back,” and the charity serves both veterans and active duty personnel.
“It’s really good for these veterans to feel accepted in the community because a lot of them don’t feel accepted,” Nelson said.
The new charity is on a mission to fundraise and provide trips and anything else a veteran or service member might need. Along with the Seeley trip, the organization has purchased propane, heaters, an electric blanket and a hotel room for a night.
“It’s really anything they need to help them, if they need help, come talk to us,” Nelson said. “We pay the bills directly.”
The organization has three main initiatives as it gets going, Hunsicker said. The first are outdoor adventures or any other trips or events, and they are looking for community members to step up with equipment and expertise for logistics. The second is fundraisers to help with financial needs, and the third is to get interested veterans involved in a community event.
“I hear from a lot of these guys that these trips are really a way they get a little bit of relief and just get to check out from the anxiety of everyday life,” she said. “We are looking for fundraisers to bring in more money but that’s also a great time to bring the community together and bring these veteran in.”
Hunsicker, who was married to a veteran, says she has learned so much about PTSD and dealing with it, and emphasizes that there is much the general public just doesn’t understand.
“Our board is really fired up, really gung ho about what we can do,” she said.
Nelson would one day like to open a healing center for veterans in Helena, offering some natural therapies and licensed counseling. In the meantime, Helena’s Got Your 6 already has a fishing trip to Tiber Reservoir planned on Friday with spots still available, and several community fundraisers later in the month.
So far, the response has been positive.
“So many people that find out what we’re doing and who we’re helping, they’re just coming out of left field to help,” Nelson said.