Presented by Congressman Francis Rooney, Operation Open Arms board member Doug Suter accepts the U.S. Navy Distinguished Public Service Award on behalf of Capt. John “Giddy Up” Bunch.

The U.S. Navy honored Lee County’s own Capt. John “Giddy Up” Bunch with the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award for his superior work leading the Operation Open Arms organization. Since 1951, this prestigious medal has only been awarded to 27 recipients including George Halas, Joseph Rosenthal, Tom Hanks, and Steven Spielberg.

Operation Open Arms is a nonprofit organization that offers fishing trips, vacations and other services to military personnel including same day post-traumatic stress disorder counseling.

The Distinguished Public Service Award is presented to civilians for courageous or heroic acts, as well as outstanding service to the Navy or Marine Corps. Congressman Francis Rooney presented the award on Friday, March 9 on Fort Myers Beach.

“I am honored to have recommended Captain Bunch for this award,” Rooney said. “Service over self is what makes the men and women of our military the greatest in the world, and John’s actions through his charity highlights that service. I thank him for all he has done, and continues to do, for our nation’s soldiers and their families.”

Bunch, a U.S. Marine officer from 1969-1976, is a well-known fishing guide. In the book, “Secrets of Florida’s Master Anglers” by Ron Presley, Bunch is named as 1-20 Best Professional Saltwater Fishing Guides in Florida. Bunch founded Operation Open Arms in 2005. Operation Open Arms Florida and OOA Maryland has served more than 3,718 U.S. troops returning from combat and/or foreign duty stations. Bunch is also a 2016 recipient of the Army Outstanding Civilian Service Medal.

For more information about Operation Open Arms, please visit www.operationopenarms.org or call 239-822-8888.