There were no gunshots or rumbling of tanks and artillery, as this was a friendly takeover. The event was "MAD 6," and the invading troops were welcomed with open arms, almost like the soldiers who liberated European villages during World War II.
"I had a great time," said Levi Cunningham, who drove down from Camp Lejeune to participate. "Everyone was so nice, and the fishing was really good. I caught some flounder and several red drum.
"One of the red drum was my largest ever, and it took a while to get in. I was tired at the end of the day, but I really enjoyed myself."
Military Appreciation Day - MAD - is both a group and an event – actually, several events – planned by the North Carolina organization headquartered in Charlotte. Civilians gather to show their appreciation to active military personnel by taking them fishing. Some MAD events also include activities for family members while their airman, guardsman, marine, sailor or soldier is fishing.
This was the fourth year for a MAD event on Oak Island and the sixth MAD event overall in as many years.
About 100 of servicemen participated, with more than 40 boat owners and operators volunteering to take them fishing.
Storming into Bill Smith Park and charging down the docks at South Harbor Village Marina, the military men and women met and boarded a flotilla of boats waiting in the ICW for the day's assignment of fun and catching fish.
Troops and fishermen were paired according to their fishing preferences, from backwater to near-shore and all the way to the Gulf Stream.
The big fish of the day was a 45-pound wahoo caught by Mike Yates aboard the Big Mama, with Indian Trail's Wayne Cohen. The anglers also caught some skipjack tuna and false albacore, and enjoyed a brief encounter with a white marlin before the hook pulled.
James O'Neal, a Marine from Camp Lejeune, came to the Oak Island MAD event to learn a little about fishing inshore.
"I have an offshore boat and participate in the Morehead City MAD event as a boat provider," O'Neal said. "I'm not too long before retiring and like the opportunity to introduce some of the younger guys to what I enjoy on my days off.
"This year, I decided I would take a day off and come down here to fish inshore and learn a little about it. The folks at MAD really do a good job and I look forward to their events. I'll continue to participate as a boat provider even after I get out."
Many of the volunteers enjoy the MAD events as much as the troops. Christopher Minish of Atlanta, who has family near Oak Island, has provided a boat for all four local MAD events. He said he looks forward to it as much as vacation. Other volunteers include organizers, shuttle drivers, dock workers and fish cleaners.
Planning MAD events is complex and requires a big team. Don Gray and Scott Krieger are the leaders from MAD, and Capt. Chris Franks of the Oak Island Police Department served as the lead local person.
MAD began in February 2006, when Rodney Carroll, Dan Smith and John Polosky saw a story about military personnel being refused entry to several Wilmington clubs and restaurants. They got together and decided to do something about it.
Their first trips were to accompany some of these servicemen to area businesses and have restaurant policy and local laws changed. Soon they were planning the first Military Appreciation Day, May 20, 2006, which drew 225 service men and women from all five branches of the military.
More information can be found on the MAD Web site.