EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — On this week’s Veterans Voices, a local veteran is hoping to use his outdoor skills to make it easier for disabled vets to travel out of state and experience the joys of nature, free of charge.
When we first met retired Army Veteran Edward Kochanski, he was teaching Hanover Area High School students how to fly fish inside the school gymnasium. Fishing is his passion and he loves paying it forward, but now, the Purple Heart recipient from Throop is taking on bigger game: U.S. Lawmakers.
He’s writing letters to governors in every state, asking to waive fishing and hunting license fees for vets who are 100 percent disabled.
“Is a 100 percent disabled veteran in Pennsylvania not a 100 percent disabled veteran in New York or any other state? We fought for every star on the flag,” exclaimed Kochanski.
Pennsylvania grants free fishing and hunting licenses to vets who are 100 percent disabled. Kochanski wants those veterans to be able to use those licenses free when they travel to any other state, and vice versa. He believes the cost of a free license is such a small price for other states to pay when you consider that the veterans will almost certainly spend money in other places, including food and lodging.
“He’s gonna spend money in the state, bait, equipment, stay overnight, gas. He’s going to eat in their state, so it’s going to help their economy,” stated Kochanski.
It’s early days for his campaign, letters went out to every governor, including Governor Shapiro, and Kochanski has received a few positive responses from representatives.
Earlier this year, the Pennsylvania House passed a bill to allow veterans from other states to fish free in the Keystone State if they already have a valid license. Now, it’s up to the State Senate to follow up.
Kochanski says he’s going to do what he can to nudge the process along, but he admits he’s only one voice. He says it’s up to his fellow veterans to back him up.
“Talk to your local congressman, senators, the government offices of each state. Get ahold of them. Get messages to them to get this bill passed,” instructed Kochanski.
Kochanski is also sending out letters to National Veterans Organizations like the V.F.W. and the American Legion to try to get them on board. Health professionals consider outdoor activities like fishing to be an essential therapeutic tool for veterans struggling with PTSD.