A year of changing lives

June 1 marked the one year anniversary for Wounded Warrior Anglers of America, a nonprofit organization that is changing the lives of our service men and women and their caregivers.

I had the honor of meeting Dave for the first time last June at an event held in Matlacha, FL. His vision and excitement for an organization that is near and dear to his heart poured out of him as he told me what his mission was and what he hoped to accomplish.

battle of matlachaAn excerpt from my blog “Hearts of Gold” . . .

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.

End of excerpt … which was written on Jan. 4.

Soon after meeting Dave, I met his wife Judy on another assignment where a lifelong friendship instantly formed.

This woman has been Dave’s caretaker for more than 20 years, which in itself is a beautiful thing.

I have experienced so many great moments, so many great conversations and met so many incredible wounded warriors and their caregivers since that initial conversation with the co-founders. My life has become enriched in numerous ways, all because I am a part of an organization that does so much for others.

Now looking back, I am proud to say I have experienced almost every step of the way during this past year with the co-founders of this wonderful organization. Their “hearts of gold” are constantly forming new ides to continue to help these men and women who have kept us safe while serving in one of the branches of our military.

I remember receiving a phone call from Judy many months ago sharing an exciting phone call Dave received out of the blue. That phone call led to a very special day for this couple last week.

A tremendous contribution was given to this organization a day before their first year anniversary, so Judy and Dave can further help those in need.

Wounded Warrior Anglers Member Guy Lee, Caregiver Rosa Vazquez, Wounded Warrior Angel Vazquez, Wounded Warrior Anglers Co-Founder David Souders, Seafarers International Union Port Agent Kris Hopkins, Wounded Warrior Anglers Co-Founder Judy Souders, Wounded Warrior Anglers Board Member Tony “The Judge” Rogers.

Wounded Warrior Anglers Member Guy Lee, Caregiver Rosa Vazquez, Wounded Warrior Angel Vazquez, Wounded Warrior Anglers Co-Founder David Souders, Seafarers International Union Port Agent Kris Hopkins, Wounded Warrior Anglers Co-Founder Judy Souders, Wounded Warrior Anglers Board Member Tony “The Judge” Rogers.

Seafarers International Union Port Agent Kris Hopkins donated $20,000 to Wounded Warrior Anglers, funds collected from a tournament they held at their school in Maryland earlier this year.I decided to call Kris, so I could interview him for an article I was working on for the Eagle. I wanted to share with the entire community what took place at the Olde Fish House Marina on Friday.

A quote that stood out to me during our interview, one that I included in the article . . .

“I think it is important that we recognize the people that have served our country and became injured and critically disabled,” Hopkins said. “It is important that we give back to them.”

This donation, this generous offer, all came about because Seafarers International Union Executive Board Member George Tricker decided to make Wounded Warrior Anglers the recipient of the inaugural event.

Dave and Judy said they were initially excited because Seafarers International Union wanted to include some of their wounded warriors in the tournament – a day for these men and women to spend out on the water fishing.

Never in their wildest dreams did they expect to receive a donation, let alone a donation of that magnitude.

When I talked to Judy and Dave Saturday they were still speechless from the donation.

“We still are really overwhelmed with the generosity of what these folks have done for the origination,” Judy said in a quote that was added in the Pine Island Eagle article.

Judy and Dave’s voices were filled with so much emotion and pure joy . . . Although we were not talking face-to-face, I could hear the smilies spread across their faces, the smile that remained during our entire conversation.

This donation will only help them further serve the wounded warriors and caregivers during their retreat. The money will allow them to continue to buy rods and reels, a gift to the men and women to take home once they are done with their fishing outing, as well as covering the cost of housing while they are in town.

The Warrior and Caregiver Retreat is a beautiful event that brings together individuals while treating them to a stress free day. My heart is always filled with extreme joy after attending one of these functions because of the laughter, conversations and friendships that are formed.

I truly look forward to witnessing what transpires during the Wounded Warrior Anglers second year, especially now that I am a board member. It’s amazing to be a part of something that is incredibly special, something that brings so much joy to an individuals life who has suffered so much while keeping us safe.

Here is too many more years of helping others and expanding this wonderful organization, Wounded Warrior Anglers.

“Changing lives one warrior at a time.”

For more information visit http://www.woundedwarrioranglers.org.

8 thoughts on “A year of changing lives

  1. Lovely post! My son served two tours in Iraq and was injured. Being at Walter Reed watching him recover and time spent in Richmond at the head trauma facility was most humbling. I commend your activism and God Bless!

      • My son is great! His trauma wasn’t permanent. He’s had four years of surgeries but went to college during it all and now has his MBA. You can see how great he looks in my latest post. He just got hitched! I’m so proud of him. 🙂

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