‘It was pretty uplifting’

A brand new program was introduced to the Wounded Warrior Anglers organization due to networking Chapter 4 – Mahi Strike Group Commandant Chief Buck McTee initiated with the American Tackle Company International.

“I am a resourceful guy,” the active duty Navy gentleman said. “I used the resources out there. Once we got it going, the guys up there, they were on point with everything.”

McTee began the Wounded Warrior Angler chapter in Fort Lauderdale because of a fellow Wounded Warrior Angler Capt. Jim Conant.

“His story is what moved me and I was like, these are the kind of guys I can sign on with and be okay with it and run with it and be excited about it,” McTee said.

He said his goal with the brand new chapter is bringing out the guys that are dealing with PTSD and injuries and get them into something.

His goal is to “pay it forward.”

One way in paying it forward began the Handcrafted Rod Program, which was held in Oviedo, Florida, Friday, April 10, through Sunday, April 12.

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Don Morse with American Tackle Company International Inc. said the three day event began on Friday, April 10 with an introduction and meet and greet, so everyone had the chance to get to know one another. He said some history, as well as some information about building rods, was also shared that Friday.

Since one of their instructors is a chef, he barbecued a “whole heap of chicken” for everyone to enjoy later that night.

“It was a good time,” Morse said.

The following morning around 8 a.m., 13 warriors of Wounded Warrior Anglers attended the workshop. All of the supplies to build the rods were donated for the event.

“It was excellent, well worth the time. It was great,” Army veteran Kevin Crowder said.

Crowder joined the Army in 2008 because he felt it was something he was supposed to do as an able body to serve at least one term. He served until 2012.

“It felt good to serve,” Crowder said, although it was not always enjoyable all the time. “I made a lot of brothers and I miss a lot of them.”

A sense of accomplishment washed over Crowder as he finished building his rod, especially with how tedious some of the work was.

“It was pretty uplifting,” he said about the want to build something.

The instructors helped the warriors build the rods from start to finish from around 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

“It is a time involved task,” Morse said. “After you do so many it gets easier.”

Crowder said the instructors told them how to build a rod from ground up. He said he absorbed how to build it rather quickly due to the simplified instruction.

“It is something we can carry on and keep going,” Crowder said.

McTee also built a rod during the workshop for his wife. He said when he feels good enough about his product he will present it to another military member during an event.

On Sunday the warriors applied the epoxy clear coat over the thread to finish off the finished product.

Morse said he saw a lot of smiles that Saturday, which was fantastic. He said he also had the pleasure of seeing a lot of the guys sharing their stories one-on-one during the workshop.

Wounded Warrior Anglers Founder and President David Souders said he was thrilled to see many  of the guys  open up to the instructors.

“We had guys opening up to these guys within a couple of hours in teaching them,” he said. “You don’t ever see that. Their guards were down . . . walls and barriers were coming down. It was a phenomenal event.”

The workshop provided the warriors with a new skill they can continue to use.

Morse said if they want to keep going with it they know how to build or rod, or if they do not, they still have a rod that they can show people they built with their own hands.

“I think they will go forward and build some nice rods and supplement their income,” Morse said.

He said although you do not build custom rods to save money, it can be done inexpensively. An individual can purchase all the parts to build a rod for under $60, which will provide the ability to fish for anything.

“Custom building price is more than you pay in the store,” Morse said, adding that when building a rod “you get a rod that performs better than one made in the factory.”

McTee said he cannot say enough great things about the Handcrafted Rod Program. He said he hopes within the next 12 months they will be able to host a rod building event in Southeast Florida

“All these guys spent their whole adult life working for the military,” McTee said working missions, having a purpose and drive to get things done. “They don’t have that camaraderie and the structure (after serving). “We take them and say, ‘hey here is this fishing rod. I need you to build this, here is some instruction and here are guys that will help you.’ I think it’s great.”

Crowder, who lives south of Jacksonville, goes out fishing every chance he gets. He said he now hopes to buy the equipment to build his own rods.

“(I will) start building a few a week or a few a month and see how it goes when I start off,” he said.

Crowder plans on setting up shop in his brother’s garage, so he can invite guys from his Wounded Warrior Anglers chapter to share the knowledge he now knows of building rods. He said one of the goals of attending the workshop was to soak in all the knowledge and pass it on to other guys.

“I’m glad they picked me to pass it on to the other guys,” he said. “I feel pretty confident with it.”

Crowder said his new skill will bring him and his brother closer because he too wants to start building rods.

Morse said they are already in the planning stages of holding another Handcrafted Rod Program event in Matlacha in either September or October.

“I’m definitely looking forward to helping them out as much as we can and working with them with sponsorships,” he said of the Wounded Warrior Anglers organization.

Morse said brainstorming sessions have already begun on creating decals made with the Wounded Warrior Anglers logo with built in USA by a specific wounded warrior’s name.

“With me being an angler and being in the fishing industry, I love seeing something like this geared to fishing,” he said of Wounded Warrior Anglers, which helps guys putting their lives on the line to protect this country. “It’s all I can think about . . . the next step with them.”

Morse said he looks forward to working with the organization because the relationship he has already made with the guys is spectacular.

“I’m looking forward to keeping the communication open and doing some fishing with them,” he said.

Wounded Warrior Anglers of America, Inc. was founded in 2012 by David and his wife Judy Souders. 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.”

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