Fishing with Heroes

Local nonprofit strives to bring peace to veterans

By Vanessa Infanzon  |  Photos Courtesy of Allan McCoy

Until last year, John Boye, 69, hadn’t used a fishing pole since he was 18 years old. These days, he keeps a pole in his car and uses it any chance he gets.


William T. McCoy (right in photo) served in WWII an inspired his son, Allan, to support veterans.
Veteran Ronald Chambliss (right) went fishing with Allan McCoy as part of Hook Line & Heroes. Sixx, the service dog, got in on the fun, too.

Boye served in the U.S. Army with the 23rd Infantry for three months during the Vietnam War. One day in August 1970, he and a point man were leading the troops down a trail near a small village. The point man missed a tripwire booby trap, which set off a grenade. About 40 to 50 pieces of shrapnel entered Boye’s body. The two soldiers were medevacked to a nearby M.A.S.H. unit. Both survived, and Boye was honorably discharged and awarded the Purple Heart. As a result of that day, he uses a cane to compensate for the partial loss of muscle tone in one leg.

But it was post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI) — a term many people use today instead of post-traumatic stress disorder — that limited Boye’s enjoyment of life. For decades since that incident, harrowing experiences in Vietnam left him unable to relax or find fulfilling recreational activities. He seldom left the house except for work as a graphic artist or to walk his dog.

Then everything changed. Boye met Allan McCoy last year through a local chapter meeting of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. McCoy, a Pineville resident, had founded Hook Line & Heroes, a faith-based nonprofit, in 2017.

McCoy was inspired to do something after he saw a television program about an organization taking veterans fishing. He is not a veteran, but he grew up with a respect for the military since his father was a World War II, D-Day veteran.

McCoy wanted to create a program that focused on developing a bond between a volunteer and a veteran. “There are a lot of great organizations that do group events for veterans,” McCoy says. “What I found was that there weren’t any organizations that do one-on-one relationship building and caring trips that are faith-based.”

In 2018, McCoy took nine veterans on one-on-one fishing trips to lakes, streams and rivers in the Carolinas and Florida. Although it’s a Christian-based organization, Hook Line & Heroes welcomes participants of all faiths.

Veterans are referred to the program through local organizations and website nominations. Once accepted into the program, the veteran chooses the destination and style of fishing, and McCoy hires a professional fishing guide to take the pair out. Veterans take home a devotional and a Bible. McCoy tries to call each veteran once a month to maintain the relationship.

“It’s not about taking someone fishing and forgetting about them,” McCoy says. “The key for us is to continue that relationship from that point on.”

There’s no cost to the veteran. The organization’s funding comes from private donations, raffles and fundraisers. Hook Line & Heroes is on track to more than double its funding and number of trips for this year.

After connecting last year, McCoy and Boye went fishing in December on Lake Murray near Columbia, South Carolina. The trip gave Boye the hope he’d been seeking.

“It was like (McCoy) was giving me a gift, a thank-you gift,” Boye says. “It showed me I can heal and conquer this (PTSI).”