New chapters take off for WWA

Wounded Warrior Anglers of America, Inc. was founded in battle of matlacha2012 by Dave and his wife Judy Souders in an effort to help all American military veterans cope with their stress management and PTSD therapy.

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.

Judy, his wife and caregiver, experienced first hand what our wounded warriors have and still are going through.

The nonprofit organization is a nationally chartered public charity.

Its mission is to “help rehabilitate the mind, body and soul of all service members who have been injured, wounded or disabled in the line of duty no matter what their era of service.” The organization also “actively supports the wounded warrior’s caregivers and their immediate family.”

The nonprofit organization recently added two new chapters to the cause, which in turn is helping more of our wounded warriors.

First Chapter: The “Matlacha Redfish Regiment”

 Chapter 001, The “Matlacha Redfish Regiment,” was nationally chartered and formed on Feb. 10, 2014. David is the commandant and James Conant is the executive officer of the chapter.

“Being a wounded warrior myself, it’s great to be with other veterans,” Jim said about the camaraderie they all share. “It’s a great thing to help out each other and be around people that you have a lot in common with.”

Matlacha Redfish Regiment Wounded Warrior Angler Chapter Executive Officer Jim Conant.

Matlacha Redfish Regiment Wounded Warrior Angler Chapter Executive Officer Jim Conant.

Jim was in the U.S. Army for 22 years before retiring in June 2010. He said all the men in his family are veterans, which is one of the reasons he joined the service.His involvement in Wounded Warrior Anglers began 13 months ago after meeting Dave at a booth he had set up at the Taste of Pine Island.

The chapter got going this month when it held its first bimonthly meeting on March 10. The meetings are held at the Olde Fish House Marina on Matlacha because of the relaxed atmosphere.

Jim said they have about 65 members so far in the Matlacha chapter.

Disabled veterans can join the chapter for free by logging onto http://www.woundedwarrioranglers.com. He said they are waving the fee for veterans for a year to get more people involved.

In addition to the bi-monthly meeting, Jim said the chapter is also holding an internal fishing tournament.

“It’s a great team building event,” he said, adding that the tournament draws the members closer.

The first internal fishing tournament will be held on Saturday, April 5 for the members. Jim said they currently have eight boats participating. After the kind of fish was drawn for the tournament, a few more captains came onboard because the fish can be found in deeper waters.

He said every fishing tournament members will be paired up with different teams, so everyone has a chance to meet new people.

The first place winner of the tournament will fly the Wounded Warrior Angler flag on their boat every time they are out on the water.

With Jim recently earning his captain’s license, as well as being retired, he said he takes one or two veterans out at a time two to four times a week.

Second Chapter: “Port Charlotte/North Port Area”

The second chapter is currently underway for the Wounded Warrior Anglers of America, Inc. organization due to it working towards nationally chartering Chapter 002.

Wounded Warrior Anglers of America President David Souders and Keith Neal.

Wounded Warrior Anglers of America, Inc. Founder David Souders and Port Charlotte/North Port area chapter commandant Keith Neal.

“It’s a great cause to be involved with,” Keith Neal said, who is the commandant of the second chapter. “I couldn’t think of anything better to do.”

The second chapter, “Port Charlotte/North Port Area,” will cover Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte, Englewood, Bradenton, North Port, Sarasota and Venice. Once the chapter receives more members and sponsorships it will go full blast.

There are currently 16 Wounded Warrior Angler members living in the Charlotte County area. Keith said veterans who live in the area can join the Wounded Warrior Angler chapter by visiting, http://www.woundedwarrioranglers.org.

Once an individual logs onto the website and enters what city they live in, he said, they will be assigned to the chapter out of his area.“We want to keep continuing and expanding it further,” Keith said of Wounded Warrior Anglers.

“We don’t want to change anything. We are hoping to expand it even more to help more individuals and gain more awareness.”

His hope with this chapter is to grow more awareness about the organization, hold more functions and help wounded warrior’s cope with their issues. One of those coping mechanisms, of course is taking wounded warriors out on the water.

Right now, Keith, as well as some other captains are volunteering their time and boats to take the warriors out fishing.

Keith said he first started volunteering with Wounded Warrior Anglers a year and a half ago after he heard about the organization through a friend.

Keith will retired from the United Sates Navy at the end of August after 22 1/2 years of service. He said he knew he was going to be a Navy man in high school because both his mother and grandfather were in the Navy.

“It’s been an amazing career and I have enjoyed every minute of it,” he said.

Although Keith is not on the water as much as he wants to be, he tries to go fishing a couple times a month in the winter and more in the summer.

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