(Video — flyover by pilot Mark Holt honoring veterans participating in the cruise)
CLEAR LAKE — About 200 people boarded the Lady of the Lake in Clear Lake on Wednesday afternoon for the annual Veterans Cruise. The event started nine years ago as a way to honor veterans at a time around the Flag Day holiday.
Clear Lake VFW Post 4868 commander Mike Nelson says that idea has grown over the last nine years. “From year one, it was kind of a learning process. About three years ago, we got some good sponsors that we could actually make it free. The first few years we charge $10 a couple, and by the time that the sponsors came on board last few years, we were able to make it free. It really expanded the program.”
Nelson says they’ve hosted veterans from a number of different generations that live around the area, many of them who never have been on the Lady of the Lake or ventured out on Clear Lake. “We’ve had anybody from World War II through Afghanistan and Iraq. Everybody that comes on board, a lot of them have never been on the Lady of the Lake, but they all seem to walk away with a pretty good experience.”
Nelson says it’s a rewarding experience for both those attending and those who help sponsor the event. “It just does me good to see when we get everybody on board and we hand out the door prizes, and everybody just has a good time. That’s what I like to see, to see the veterans young and old, it’s just like a giant subdued party.”
Lady of the Lake owner Scott Monson says a free cruise is a great way to honor the area’s veterans. “It’s a great way to give back and let them have an experience that not normally they would do. We had some new people this year. It’s something we can give back and let them have just a just a break a nice ride on the water.”
Monson says it’s good to interact with veterans who may never have had an opportunity to be on a boat on the lake. “We hear it every year that ‘I didn’t even know this boat was here’ or ‘I didn’t know you did rides like this’. We get them out, and they see it, and they come back to Clear Lake, and they just really enjoy it.”
There were two different cruises yesterday afternoon that each handled about 100 veterans and their families.