Casting Hope: The Journey of Operation North State


On a sunny North Carolina morning, a group of “gym-rat” senior men sat around the old familiar breakfast table grumbling about the world’s “state of affairs.” It was a weekly scene for these gentlemen. They enjoyed a good meal, each other’s company, the weekly time they had on their hands after a morning run and the weekly brainstorms on how they could change things for mankind, before they headed back to their normal lives until the next breakfast meeting.  

Terry Snyder was one of these gentlemen. The year was 2010. One particular morning’s conversation stirred a passion within Terry’s heart. They spoke on the many flaws that were happening within the V.A. (the United States Veterans Affairs) that played daily in the news headlines. For years, our veterans had suffered from extremely poor medical treatment to homelessness and depression, not to mention an astronomical number of suicides. There did not seem to be many options of assistance offered to our veterans who so desperately needed help. In such a modern thriving time, it was a tragedy to witness. 

Terry had never served in the military, yet he felt an extreme urgency to “do something.” At breakfast that morning, he asked around the table, “WHAT are YOU doing?” “WHY don’t WE/US citizens help them?” 

By the time they parted ways that day, Terry had challenged his friends to be a part of something that would positively impact as many veterans as he could reach.  

And so came the fruition of Operation North State (ONS).  

Terry knew that getting like-minded folks together in an outdoor setting could be both empowering and therapeutic for these men and women that so selflessly served our country.  

The first Operation North State outing offered veterans the experience of a fishing tournament. A real deal fishing tournament…a boat, a competition, an emcee, prizes, all that goes along with a fishing competition, including bragging rights! Terry solicited local tournament anglers as well as “average joe” anglers to volunteer as “host boaters.” He drew in nearly 70 volunteers and veterans (along with their respective caregivers). The first annual Fishing Festival was funded 100% by donations and volunteers, at zero cost to the veteran participants. The camaraderie was more than what anyone could have anticipated. Between the veterans and the volunteers, the lifetime fellowship and friendships that were developed that day were astounding. The mental benefits this outing had among the veterans were inspirational. The sheer joy that this event brought to these folks’ lives was astonishing.  

Operation North State Fishing Festivals have grown to five per year on freshwater lakes around the state and at least three saltwater fishing outings. All at zero cost to the veterans who want to participate. The relationships that have developed within the fishing community, the veteran community and host communities have opened even more opportunities for fellowship outside of ONS events. Cumulatively, ONS has been able to offer nearly 800 fishing opportunities annually. The fishing events were so much a success that it only warranted Terry to provide more ways to help. Operation North State not only added an annual golfing tournament and monthly cycling events, but it also added a snowboard outing, kayaking and go-karting. First aid classes have been added, and one of the veterans that attended was able to utilize what he had learned to actually save a life!

Far beyond the experience of the outings themselves, there is something that happens within the souls of these men and women that is hard to explain. It’s almost magical in some cases. What once may have been a man that barely got out of bed is now a man that finds purpose in the next day. From something that seems so simple, to go fishing or golfing…friends are being made, lives are being changed and positivity is being brought into lives that were once very dark.  

Terry Snyder “did something.” One day, he made one decision to help. He followed through with that one decision. He made an impact on one life and then another…and that is how “we” change the world.  

Information on Operation North State can be found on Facebook and on their website at

Note from writer  

**just my perspective…

I was asked to write this article and was honored. But more so stressed because I have had the honor to be part of the fishing events (as a host boater) and it’s so hard to put into words the impact that they have. These “outings” are life-changing. I’ve felt it, I’ve witnessed it. I was changed just by the sheer privilege of taking out someone that fought for the country where I was born. I saw men that at the beginning of the day, seemed vulnerable and unsure, but at the same time, they were the strongest and most brave men I’d ever been around. Then, at the end of the day, after fishing, I witnessed the most phenomenal camaraderie. Laughing, relaxed men, confident even. It was like a switch. Lifelong friends were formed. Plans for more adventures were made. Wives, partners, caregivers all approached the host boaters, volunteers and especially Terry to express their gratitude and tell their individual stories of how their lives have been positively impacted since these outings. It’s magical to sit back and watch. It’s a blessing to be a small part of it all. It’s a mystery as to how it all unfolds, but it does, and it is beautiful.


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