As the son and brother of two United States Marine’s, Jay Garstecki is a proud supporter of all US Military personnel. Jay co-founded Take a Vet Fishing in 2011 with board member and Veteran – Rob Blanchar.
Due to the overwhelming number of our nation’s heroes returning from battle with anxiety and depression, Take a Vet Fishing was born. "A Day of Giving Back" is just the beginning of what this organization will do for our US military personnel. For the past 24 years, Jay Garstecki has served as the Vice President of Enterprise Business Development for a brand building marketing company that specializes in creative marketing strategies. During this time, he has been involved in product and consumer marketing for MANY Fortune 500 companies.
In 2016, Jay also co-founded "Operation Fishing Freedom" – a television show which tells Veterans stories – through THEIR eyes. Each episode features a different US Military Veteran and explains the HEROISM that these men and women face BOTH in the military and in home life. The show airs 52 weeks/year on Discovery Channel and several other national television networks.
Jay is HONORED to be a trustee on the Yontz Valor Foundation – assisting nonprofit organizations who help US Military Veterans.
Jay is dedicated to making sure this country takes care of our US Military Veterans. He has vowed to make a difference in Veterans lives – even if it is one at a time...
Jay has a beautiful wife (Kris) of 19 years and is heavily involved in his Son’s (Justin) ice hockey team.
Retired Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Robert C Blanchar was an Aircraft Engine Mechanic Supervisor for the F-16C/D. He was also an Iraq war veteran having done three tours of duty in Iraq at Balad Air Base. While in Iraq in addition to performing supervisory duties for the F-16C/D, he also assisted combat-wounded American soldiers, Iraqi soldiers and Iraqi citizens.
Rob is a lifelong resident of McFarland, WI and Co-Founded Take-A-Vet Fishing in 2012 along with his son, Justin Blanchar and Jay Garstecki. Their mission was to provide a day of giving back to the veterans who served our country. An event was planned in which guides were provided to take Veterans fishing for a half day followed by a recognition ceremony and luncheon that included the vets and their families, guides and numerous volunteers. It was a day of saying thank you to Veterans, some of who never received the thanks they deserved. It is also the same format that is used to this day as Take-A-Vet Fishing events expand from state to state.
Rob’s Military career began while serving in the United States Marine Corps from 1974 to 1978. He was an Aircraft Engine Mechanic working on the OV-10 Bronco and the F-4 Phantom and was stationed at Camp Pendleton CA, Kaneohe Bay HI, and Iwaquni Japan. After his enlistment Rob worked in the private sector for six years. In late 1984, Rob enlisted in the Wisconsin Air National Guard where he worked full time until his retirement in July of 2011. His career consisted of 31 years of military service, with the last 20 years supervising up to 45 Aircraft Engine Mechanics and insuring safe, reliable Mission Ready Aircraft.
Throughout his career at Truax Field he deployed numerous times prior to 9-11 including Germany, England, Denmark, Curassow, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. His deployments after 9-11 included: Active duty at Truax Field Madison Wisconsin, Langley Air Force Base as an Aircraft Engine Mechanic Supervisor responsible for all engines installed and Mission Ready to fly Combat Air Patrol over Washington DC, Qatar 2004 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, and in 2006, 2007 and 2009 to Balad Air Base in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Rob an avid fisherman and is active in his community as a volunteer. He serves as the Historian for the American Legion Post 534 McFarland WI, is a member of the American Legion Color Guard performing in parades and is on the Board of Directors for Take-AVet Fishing in which he has held numerous positions. Prior to retirement in 2011, he and his son Justin started Vibrations Tackle, a fishing lure manufacturing business. He is married, the father of three grown-up children and the grandfather of four.
Michelle Eidsor is the Finance Officer for a Township located in Illinois. She brings with her more than twenty three years of accounting experience. Michelle is married to David, who is also an avid volunteer with Take A Vet Fishing. They reside with their family in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
“Several years ago, after volunteering at an event, I knew I had to become more involved. When the position of Treasurer became available, I jumped at the chance to join the Board. I believe in giving back and I am particularly passionate about assisting those who have served our Country. Our service men and women have sacrificed so much so that we can live a safer life. No amount of appreciation will be sufficient enough to honor them but, we can start with a day of giving back.”
Capt. Ben Olsen is the owner and operator of Fishing Hardcore Guide Service LLC in Minnesota and Southwest Florida. He regularly spends 250+ days on the water per year. He and his wife, Kelly, also own and operate several other businesses including an online retail business, real estate businesses and a bakery.
From an early age Ben was surrounded by veterans. His grandfather, Carl, was a VFW post commander and World War II veteran. His father, Greg, is a Vietnam Veteran and active member of the VFW and Legion Riders Motorcycle Club. More recently, his uncle Gary was deployed to Iraq with his National Guard unit.
I'll never forget being at Holman Field in St. Paul when my uncle returned from Iraq. My grandpa was there though his health had been failing. You could see the pride in the way he and my father carried themselves and the looks on their faces. I remember being overcome by emotion as families welcomed their loved ones home. Until then all the Memorial Day parades, VFW suppers and raffles seemed to be nothing more than events associated with a social club. It wasn't until I saw the husbands and wives in the arms of their spouses, the mothers and fathers hugging their children and the giant smiles and tears of joy, that I realized the sacrifice and service was very real and incredibly difficult!
Through the "Take A Vet Fishing" organization, Ben seeks to share his passion for fishing and the positive influence it has had on his life. He has been working with Operation Muskie, Muskies Inc. and other local groups for several years to accomplish that goal.
Dave VanDoorn is a professional angler that has been Take a Vet Fishing's "Daily Ambassador" since 2012 and VanDoorn has averaged over 130 days on the water for Take a Vet Fishing. Dave VanDoorn continues to work for veterans and veterans causes. Along with his wife Nancy, two kids Tim and Sara. "A Day of Giving Back" is something VanDoorn tries to incorporate everyday.
Caitlin Decker is the Operations Manager at Archway Marketing Services located in Minnesota. Caitlin offers years of experience in managing teams and building workflow efficiencies. With her knowledge and expertise, she can apply these skills with Take a Vet Fishing by working with volunteers, vendors, and venue/hotel staff. As a team, we can combine all our efforts to create a memorable experience for all our staff, volunteers, and Veterans.
Caitlin is the honored aunt of two ambitious little nieces that remind her daily how imperative it is to live in the moment, as we never know what God has planned for us. Since 2015, Caitlin has been the Administrative Coordinator for various outings with our Veterans. Over the years, Take a Vet Fishing has become family. Not only those on the Board of the organization, but also the Veterans, Guides, Volunteers, and Families. With each event, it is a reunion we look forward to with open arms. It is fulfilling to see our family grow with each passing season. The opportunity to connect with Veterans and their loved ones is what keeps the determination to want more for our Veterans who are being unnoticed. Let us continue to welcome our heroes home.