The life of one medically retired United States Marine changed forever after coming into contact with the nonprofit organization Wounded Warrior Anglers of America, Inc.
“I believe it’s an outstanding organization that is perfect right now for the pulse of America and the veteran community,” Peter Paskewicz, a Cape Coral, Florida resident, said. “It’s a little niche not found out there.”
Approximately six months ago, Paskewicz paid a visit to his local bait store, which resulted in an invitation to talk to the organization after asking about other veterans in the area that enjoyed fishing. He said he happened to be in the store when Dave Souders, co-founder of the organization, was also there.
“That is basically how I really got connected,” Paskewicz said.
He joined the Marines and served for three years during the first Gulf Wars from 1990 to 1993.
“I was with some very outstanding people and I know that the Marines made a positive influence on my life,” he said. “I wish I could go back. I love it.”
Paskewicz sustained lower extremity injuries, some of which include a lower back injury from a fall and a shattered hip.
He said since he has some physical problems, he wanted to get to know other veterans who liked to fish, a passion he found when he was a youngster.
“I enjoy the environment,” Paskewicz said of why he loves fishing. “I believe we are connected to the water in one way. If the water is healthy, I believe the rest of the environment is healthy.”
Before medically retiring from the service, he said fishing had always been his most private and personal time where he could reflect back on the good in his life, as well as allow all the negative things to fade away.
As a wounded warrior who loves fishing, Wounded Warrior Anglers was a perfect match for this gentleman.
“I think the Wounded Warrior Anglers provides a platform that is easy for people to meet and greet one another,” Paskewicz said.
He said the commonality and disability portion of the organization really brings everything together, making Wounded Warrior Anglers what it is today.
He said after leaving the service, fishing provided a new kind of therapy.
“It made me feel like I am still capable of doing things, still capable of accomplishing goals,” Paskewicz said. “It gives me a sense of achievement.”
Wounded Warrior Anglers holds a few retreats throughout the year that invites wounded warriors and their caregivers to Matlacha, Florida, for a day of relaxation on the water fishing, or at Spa 33, with others who have gone through similar experiences.
“That was a very important day for me and my family,” Paskewicz said of the retreat he attended about two months ago. “I had been struggling with medications and pain for about six and a half years and not feeling very good about fishing or anything.”
Once this wounded warrior received an invitation to his first retreat, it provided him with the freedom to go out fishing, while knowing he was not alone, knowing he was going to be with other wounded warriors.
“That event itself was life changing for me,” he said. “I have a whole new attitude. It was absolutely what I needed.”
That single day of camaraderie, that one day of sharing a love of fishing with others, has kept positive thoughts flowing through Paskewicz.
“I’m very grateful for the Wounded Warriors and I feel strongly that it is something really needed in our communities today for our veterans and community members as well,” he said. “It brings veterans closer to the community and the community closer to the veterans. I think it is an outstanding platform.”
Paskewicz recently volunteered at the organization’s 2nd annual Redfish Poker Fishing Championship, in memory of Sgt. John R. Pestel, last month. He said he provided a helping hand in the morning to set things up and whatever else was needed to show support.
“I was approached by at least 100 people that day, all thanking me for my service,” he said.
Those words touched this Marine.
“It was an honor,” Paskewicz said. “It made me feel proud and glad I served for people like them. That was a very special day in itself also. The civilians got to interact with the veterans and I think it was great