Jay Garstecki – President
As the Grandson of a WWI Veteran and the son and brother of two United States Marines, professional muskie fisherman Jay Garstecki is dedicated to making sure this country takes care of our U.S. military veterans. He has vowed to make a difference in veteran’s lives, even if it is one at a time. That’s why Jay co-founded three non-profit organizations that support veterans:
- Operation Outdoor Freedom Foundation (2021)
- Operation Fishing Freedom Foundation (2018)
- Take-A-Vet-Fishing (2011)
For the past 25 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 numerous Fortune 500 companies. Jay has a beautiful wife of 20 years and enjoys watching his son play ice hockey.
Ben Olsen – VP
Co-founder of the documentary TV show Operation: Fishing Freedom, Ben Olsen is a professional fisherman. 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.
Ben seeks to share his passion for fishing and the positive influence it has had on his life. In addition to co-founding Operation Fishing Freedom, he has worked with Take-AVet-Fishing, Operation Muskie, Muskies Inc. and other local groups for several years to accomplish that goal. Capt. Ben Olsen is the owner and operator of Fishing Hardcore Guide Service LLC in Minnesota and Southwest Florida. He and his wife, Kelly, also own and operate several other businesses including an online retail business, real estate businesses and a bakery.
Michelle Eidsor – Treasurer
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.”
Rob Blanchar – Secretary
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 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.
Josh Hendryx – Board Member
- Enlisted into U.S Army in April of 1996. His military career started at Ft. Benning, GA. training in combat infantry.
- Spent 2 years with Chemical Combat Battalion focused on direct action in chemical warfare environment
- Spent 4 years with a Troop Command Battalion providing security force and combat support to allies in Italy, Ukraine, Germany, South Korea, and Iceland.
- Deployed to Ukraine in 2000 for Operation Peace Shield
- Spent last 2 years of IRR providing tactics training, hand-to-hand, and drill and ceremony to students that were enlisted in Lincoln’s Challenge Program.
- Josh’s stations, training, and deployments have landed him in over 20 military installations across North America as well as 9 countries over a span of 8 years where he finished his military career as an E-6 Staff Sergeant
Mark Richardson – Board Member
- Born and raised in Edgerton, WI, and lifelong resident
- Married to wonderful wife, Karen, for 30 years
- Two adult sons, Nolan (wife Chantel) and Kevin (wife Madison)
- Kevin currently serving in the Marine Corps and Madison serving in the Air Force
- My dad, Jerry, and nephew, Randy, both served in the US Navy.
- Graduated from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a degree in criminal justice
- Served on many civic, fundraising and volunteer boards and committees over the years such as the Edgerton, WI, and Milton, WI, chambers of commerce, the Bark River Fish Hatchery, Edgerton Youth Baseball and others. Coached many youth baseball teams and umpired youth baseball.
- Worked for 40+ years in our successful family marine/boat dealership, Harbor Recreation, on the beautiful Rock River and Lake Koshkonong area near Edgerton and Milton.
- Became acquainted with Take A Vet Fishing and Operation Fishing Freedom through founder Jay Garstecki as he was a long-time customer of Harbor Recreation.
- Supplied Take A Vet Fishing with Evinrude engines and service of equipment for the group.
- Held many fundraising events and seminars for TAVF as well as several golf outing fundraisers with the help of Jay Garstecki, Dave VanDoorn and Rob Blanchar.
“As I became familiar with Take A Vet Fishing through Jay, I knew I had to be part of this great organization in whatever capacity I could. I am thankful to have been able to raise funds and supply equipment. Operation Fishing Freedom was even more motivation. I admire all those who founded and worked for these organizations and will work to continue the great tradition of helping those who served our country.”
Rich Belanger – Executive Director
Born and raised in Bloomington Mn, Rich began fishing as a small child at the family cabin in Northern Wi. Rich followed that early fishing lifestyle into a 30 year career in the fishing industry which came to a conclusion in early 2021.
Long time friend and business associate Jay Garstecki led Rich to his current position with Operation Fishing Freedom and Take a Vet Fishing. “Working with vets during my time in the fishing industry was always the highlight of my day, the work being extremely fulfilling and knowing at the end of each day you made a difference in the life on a hero. My Father served 2 tours in Korea and never mentioned a word about it to me or the rest of my siblings. I can only imagine what he went through during those times. However, that history is now lost, which is sad.”
Rich also brings a strong background in chemical dependency, which benefits those vets who may have those issues as well.
Dave Van Doorn – OFFF Fishing Pro
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.