One of the wonderful perks of my journalism career is being touched by those I have interviewed.
I had the pleasure of meeting a veteran this past year at an event I was covering who truly touched me. That initial conversation soon turned into a beautiful friendship with him and his wife, which has taken me on a journey with them as they help others.
This couple has put their mind, body, soul and spirit into an organization that recently earned a 501c3 status, Wounded Warrior Anglers, Inc. Although they are newly formed, they have helped a tremendous amount of wounded warriors and their caregivers in less than a year’s time.
The organization provided assistance to 35 wounded warriors and 24 caregivers and their family members on three organized warrior and caregiver retreats during 2012. Wounded Warrior Anglers also provided assistance to 59 wounded warriors on individual weekend fishing outings, which included multiple warriors attending each trip.
Dave Souders, the founder of Wounded Warrior Anglers, spent 500 hours on his boat treating these wounded warriors to a day out on the water fishing.
The concept of the organization formed after David was injured in 2008 while he was in the service. The serenity of fishing, along with his wife Judy, helped him get through the difficult times during his injury and healing process.
Dave served in the Marines from 1985-1992, before going into the reserves from 1992-1995. He then served in the Air National Guard in 2006 and medically retired on May 31, 2012. In 2008, he was injured while in the service.
Military life runs very deep in this gentleman’s family, due to members of his family serving since the Revolutionary War.
His love of fishing and passion for helping others turned into something bigger while he was rehabbing himself through injury. Dave always says since he is out on the water fishing, why not bring other wounded warriors with him to share the sense of relaxation and escape from every and any stressor that goes hand-in-hand with an injury.
Soon thereafter, the concept of Wounded Warrior Anglers came to fruition and Dave saw how being on the water was therapy to others just the same who underwent similar and different injuries while serving in the military.
Wounded Warrior Angler’s mission statement is “the use of fishing as a tool to help rehabilitate the mind, body, and soul while fostering the mental and physical well being of all service members who have been injured, wounded or disabled in the line of duty no matter what their era of service.”
Judy said she has been deeply touched by her “husband’s spirit and dedication to wounded warriors.”
I had the privilege of experiencing firsthand how these outings and retreats have impacted the lives of wounded warriors and their caregivers during Veterans Day weekend. Businesses of the Matlacha community came together to provide free meals, a place to stay, and a day at the spa or on the water fishing.
While the guys were out on the water, I had the opportunity to visit with the caregivers who have given so much of themselves to make sure their loved ones were and are OK. Their stories put into perspective how fortunate we are as a country to have these men and women fighting for our safety.
While I sat at my desk writing these individuals stories, it dawned on me just how much Judy and Dave do for these individuals that have done so much for us.
Judy said that weekend was just as memorable to her as it was me because of the article (http://pineisland-eagle.com/page/content.detail/id/522883/Wounded-warriors–their-caregivers-enjoy-a-special-day.html) she read in the Pine Island Eagle the following week of what her and her husband had accomplished. She told me as she read my article, it put into perspective just how much they do for these women and men – it showed her that they have accomplished more then they set out to do.
A moment that touched Dave this past year was when he took a father and his son out on the water to fish for red’s. The father, who is 34-years-old, had been gone for five out of the eight years his son has been alive due to deployment.
Although the father had been out fishing before, he had never caught a redfish, which was on the top of his list to do during the outing. Dave said the trip was extremely memorable because the son caught a redfish first, also his first red, and 15-minutes later the father caught another one.
Since they have accomplished more than they could imagine, their dreams are growing in how they can further help wounded warriors and their caregivers.
A wish of Dave’s is to find someone who will sponsor him during fishing tournaments, so he can bring a couple wounded warriors onto the boat with him. He said if he can enter these tournaments with two wounded warriors it will further demonstrate to his fellow warriors that even though they have an injury, they are still viable and capable of winning first, second or even third place.
This incredible couple will continue to reach for the stars, only because the sky is the limit in what they can accomplish in helping other wounded warriors.
Take the time to visit their website, https://woundedwarrioranglers.org, and make a small or large contribution, since it is tax deductible, so they can continue to take these men and women who have served our country out on the water to enjoy a day of relaxation, while forgetting about their pains, as well as their caregivers who have given all of themselves to make sure their loved ones are OK.