‘Numb from the generosity’

‘Numb from the generosity’

One Lehigh Acres veteran is still “numb from the generosity” he received from the Wounded Warrior Anglers Acts of Kindness Emergency Fund, earlier this month.

“It’s just awesome,” Allen Sparks, a U.S. Air Force veteran, said. “My heart and soul goes out to you guys. I appreciate it to no end.”

Wounded Warrior Anglers Acts of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund Committee Member Keith Campbell said a few weeks ago Mary Jo Sparks reached out to him when her husband Allen went missing. He said Allen had suffered a stroke when he was found, which left him in the hospital for a few days.

“Mary Jo had reached out to me again saying she was behind on financial bills and didn’t know where to turn to as far as help,” Campbell said, adding that he guided them to a couple of veteran organizations, including Wounded Warrior Anglers.

He presented the Sparks with a $2,500 check on Tuesday, May 5 to help them financially.

Mary Jo Sparks, Allen Sparks and Keith Campbell.

Mary Jo Sparks, Allen Sparks and Wounded Warrior Anglers Acts of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund Committee Member Keith Campbell.

“It feels good as long as we can get them back on the right page and right direction,” Campbell said. “I hope they can maintain it and move forward in the right direction.”

Allen served in the Air Force from 1987 to 1989 before being honorably discharged with a service related injury. The veteran suffers from many health related issues, including amnesia caused by PTSD. Due to his medical condition, Allen is not able to work, which leaves his wife generating the income to pay the bills.

“It’s like a hand of God that came through,” Allen said of the donation. “It was a beautiful thing. Keith being a long time friend and the people of the Wounded Warriors were awesome. They are great people. It’s a major blessing for that to happen. I don’t know what I would do without an organization like that that would step up.”

The donation, he said will help with his recovery, as well as stress that comes with worrying about paying bills.

“We were able to take a step forward and continue on with strong strides,” Allen said.

He said he has been in the area for 22 years working in the towing business, as well as delivering pizza. Over the years he has grown to know the people of the community, often times helping people broken down on the side of the road.

“People say that you are blessed 10 times over. It seems to be coming back around. I appreciate the people of Lee County that are able to reach out like this,” he said.

Allen said he looks forward to helping the organization, just like they helped him.

“All they have to do is pick up the phone and call and I will be there with bells on,” he said, adding that he offers a hearty gratitude to the organization. “I love them to death and I have some good new friends.”

The Acts of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund also helped Cape Coral resident Joe Boccuzzi’s brother John late last month. He said his brother, a disabled veteran who served during the Gulf War era, is looking to relocate from Ohio to Florida for work.

“I didn’t hesitate to ask any questions,” Campbell said. “If it is going to help them get a job and turn things around for them . . . let’s do it.”

Wounded Warrior Anglers provided $250 to the Boccuzzi family to help pay for John’s flight so he could attend the interviews.

“He wants to work somewhere year round,” Joe said.

During the winter months John, who works in a labor union for a commercial road construction crew, is laid off because of the Ohio winters.

“He has been with the same company for years. The winters are hard and he is getting older and wants to be able to work year round instead of seven or eight months a year,” Joe said.

He heard about Wounded Warrior Anglers during a motorcycle run that was benefiting the organization. After a conversation with President and Founder Dave Souders, he decided to become a member because he too is a veteran.

“There’s no looking back,” Joe said. “It’s a great group of people.”

The Acts of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund became a part of the organization on Oct. 14, 2014. The fund was created to provide appropriate relief to eligible veterans or disabled veterans who experience a qualifying event or emergency.

“That event itself was life changing”

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.

battle of matlachaThe organization helps its warriors by taking them out on the water for a day of fishing, an outing that promotes a friendly and peaceful environment to help warriors heal.

“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

“It was grand”

The 2nd annual Redfish Poker Fishing Championship, in memory of Sgt. John R. Pestel, was a huge success for the nonprofit organization, Wounded Warrior Anglers, this past Memorial Day weekend.

“I think it was grand,” Judy Souders, co-founder of Wounded Warrior Anglers said after the event. “The tournament was 100 percent successful. It raised good money for Wounded Warrior Anglers and that’s why we did the tournament.”

20142ndannual1a-2Dave Souders, also co-founder of the organization, said 23 boats and 11 kayakers participated in the Saturday, May 24, tournament.

Although this year’s tournament included seven more kayakers, the number of boats decreased by six. David said the decrease really did not affect the success of the tournament, due to the interest in the silent and live auctions and 50/50 raffles.

“I think everybody had a great time and really loved the event,” Dave said.

The event kicked off with a captain’s meeting the night before, which he said went pretty smooth without any problems, as the anglers learned all the specifics of the tournament at Beef O’ Brady’s in Cape Coral

The following morning the anglers arrived at their destinations with the  same thought in mind – claiming one of the first place prizes by catching the biggest red and the redfish with the most spots.

The photo and release tournament required the anglers to take a photograph of their catch on an approved measuring board. Those photographs were then brought back to the Olde Fish House Marina for weigh in that Saturday afternoon.

The boat division was won by JBA Construction Jeff Asbury, who claimed $1,000. The first place kayak division winner was Jeff Gabrick who won $500 cash.

The calcutta winner was the Dirt Necks, who claimed $2,000.

Caleb Smith also walked away from the tournament with some additional funds in his pocket. He won $600 for the most spots calcutta and $100 as the 16 and under winner.

Caleb, 10, who goes out fishing pretty much every weekend, said catching the fish was his favorite part of the tournamnet.

“We went to different spots and went red fishing,” the youngster said during the tournament.

Caleb also said it was exciting winning $700.

Throughout the day, five bands donated their time and talent, to bring some music to the event. Not Guilty, Grayson Rodgers, Sticky Revenge, Wild Caught and Bonham528 kept the crowd entertained from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

“The bands were incredible,” Judy said.

The second annual boat raffle was also deemed a success, due to the organization selling out of all 3,000 tickets by 12:30 p.m. the day of the tournament.

This year’s boat was a 2014 NauticStar 2110 Sport Bay with 115hp Yamaha four-stroke and trailer.

The lucky ticket holder was announced at 7 p.m. at the Olde Fish House Marina on May 24.  Bill Swartzwelder of Cape Coral, Florida, became the owner of the brand new NauticStar. He said he plans on letting Asbury use the boat to take individuals out on the water.

Next year’s boat raffle, Dave said, may possibly increase to 5,000 tickets, which will provide more individuals with the opportunity to donate to the organization.

The organization is seeking a boat manufacture who would like to donate a boat to the cause, to provide the organization with the opportunity to put more funds into the organization, and therefore help more wounded warriors and their caregivers.

Judy said overall the day was awesome.

“The weather was beautiful, the volunteers were awesome,” she said. “The people that came were awesome, they gave, they were pleasant.”

Judy said it amazes her how the wounded warriors come out and work with each other and stand up for their brotherhood.

Tate Hutchinson, a board member of Wounded Warrior Anglers, had the opportunity to attend this year’s tournament.

“It was great,” he said of his experience. “It was very inspirational and it was nice to see the community come together for the veterans.”

Before the day concluded May 24, approximately 500 people stopped by the Olde Fish House Marina to support the organization Wounded Warrior Anglers.

Approximately $12,500 was raised during the 2nd annual tournament, which will help the organization fulfill their mission of helping our wounded warriors and their caregivers.

The 3rd annual Redfish Poker Fishing Championship has already been set for the Saturday before Memorial Day in 2015.

Wounded Warrior Anglers of America, Inc. was founded in 2012 by Dave and his wife Judy. 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 helps its warriors by taking them out on the water for a day of fishing. This outing helps promote a friendly and peaceful environment to help warriors heal.

Wounded Warrior Anglers also help the warrior’s caregivers by treating them to a day of relaxation at Spa 33 in Matlacha, Florida.

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

To view more blogs about this organization, visit https://meghan80.wordpress.com/wounded-warrior-anglers-of-america-inc/

‘We believe in our country’

I was excited when my editor assigned me this article a few weeks ago. Due to my involvement in the nonprofit organization, Wounded Warrior Anglers of America, Inc., I have a very special place in my heart for all the men and women who have served this country. I say this because I have talked with many veterans because of my involvement with the organization and have a better understanding of what they have gone through, as well as what their family has gone through.

I really enjoyed talking with Councilwoman Nora Ellen about Operation Welcome Home, a program she brough to Chandler, Arizona. I was shocked and excited when she sent me this email:

“I want to express my deep heart-felt gratitude for the outstanding article you have written about Operation Welcome Home. I appreciate the article was on the front page and so well written in your description of the purpose of the program. I know we had people come to the ceremony Monday because of your timely article.
 
I am cc-ing Rep. J.D. Mesnard in this email to thank you for giving him the credit due of encouraging me to bring this program to Chandler. We are both very grateful to you.”
She left me speechless . . .

Operation Welcome Home honors Chandler veterans

Published in April 19, 2014 SanTan Sun News

U.S. Army Reserves Maj. Rob Polston has left Chandler once since he moved to the area 10 years ago. It was for a 15-month activation that included six months in Afghanistan for Operation Joint Endeavor.

Chandler resident Maj. Rob Polston spent six months in Afghanistan with Operation Joint Endeavor in 2012.

Chandler resident Maj. Rob Polston
spent six months in Afghanistan with
Operation Joint Endeavor in 2012.

“It was tough to leave my wife and kids,” he says of the experience in 2012. “My son was 2 years old and my daughter was 3 months old. That was a little challenging.”

Polston is among the handful of veterans who have been honored by Operation Welcome Home, an initiative introduced by the City of Chandler last year.

When Councilwoman Nora Ellen took office in January 2013, her goal was to bring the program to Chandler. Her son, Rep. J.D. Mesnard, brought the program to her attention. She says the program is important because veterans and their families sacrifice so much for Americans’ lives and freedoms.

“I want to honor and recognize that,” Ellen says.

She says some of the soldiers do not make it back home, while others see their friends die or get injured, and face traumatic situations themselves.

“They are our heroes,” Ellen says.

The program has a special place in Ellen’s heart. There is a long line of veterans in her family, including her father, who served in World War II. Five nieces and nephews as well as a brother-in-law served in the military at the same time.

Debuting initiative

The first Operation Welcome Home took place on Nov. 4, 2013, honoring four veterans, including Polston, attracting about 300 onlookers.

“It was overwhelming,” Polston says.

He heard about the program through the Chandler Veterans Memorial; he sits on its fundraising board.

“I found out through the board that Chandler was looking for veterans who have returned from overseas,” Polston says.

Nominees for Operation Welcome Home must be a Chandler resident and a veteran who served away from home during the last two or three years or are leaving soon. Four veterans are honored during each ceremony.

“We want to make it very personalized for them, so it is not a mass ceremony,” Ellen says.

The evening was special to Polston.

On Nov. 4, he arrived at a meeting place, only to be greeted by a limo waiting for all of them. The Patriot Guard Riders said a prayer before the veterans were escorted to the Chandler City Council Chambers.

Polston was overwhelmed as he stepped out of the limo in uniform, seeing hundreds of people cheering them on and waving American flags.

“It’s something you never really expect; you don’t think you really deserve,” he explains. “No veteran chooses to go to a combat zone or deploy overseas because they think they are going to get the recognition. We go to serve our country and do something that we feel like we need to do. We believe in our country. We know we are going to leave family at home. You understand that and take that into account. To be appreciated for it publicly was humbling and unexpected.”

Once the crowd greeted the veterans, the ceremony continued inside the chambers.

Polston received more than $300 in gift cards and goodies before being treated to dinner at Floridino’s Pizza and Pasta.

“It is really cool to be honored in that way,” he says. “I want to thank the City of Chandler and the council members, especially Councilwoman Nora Ellen. I look forward to honoring more veterans for serving overseas, especially those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Ellen says the support the council receives from the community enables the governing body to provide gifts for the veterans.

“Some of them can really use the money,” she says. “They come back and some of them have a hard time finding a job.”

Polston works at Intel as the program manager in its efforts to recruit veterans. He still serves as a major in the Army reserves.

The next ceremony, which the community is invited to attend, will start outside the chambers at 6 p.m. Monday, April 21.

Nomination forms, as well as sponsorship forms, can be found at www. chandleraz.gov/patriotism.

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.

Win a boat while helping WWA

The Wounded Warrior Anglers of America, Inc. are raffling another boat, courtesy of Fort Myers Marine Owner Chuck Calkins, this year to raise funds for their nonprofit organization.

2014 NauticStar 2110 Sport Bay with 115hp Yamaha four-stroke & trailer

2014 NauticStar 2110 Sport Bay with 115hp Yamaha four-stroke & trailer

The 21-foot boat is a 2014, NauticStar 2110 Sport Bay with a 115 horse power Yamaha F115 with a 92-inch beam. It also has a magic tilt trailer and such added features as stainless steel props, 7×7 bow seat base, swim platform with a ladder, single battery switch and two gunnel rod holders.

The boat, motor and trailer packages is valued at approximately  $39,627.

Individuals can view the Sport Bay NauticStar and purchase raffle tickets during the Fort Myers Boat Show from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thu., Nov. 14, Fri., Nov. 15, Sat., Nov. 16 and Sun., Nov. 17 at Harborside Event Center, 1375 Monroe St., Fort Myers. The boat will be located in the Fort Myers Marine tent and wounded warriors will be volunteering and talking to people during the show.

Three thousand tickets were printed for the raffle, which are $20 a piece or six for $100. The raffle tickets can be purchased online at www.woundedwarrioranglers.org or by calling Judy Souders, vice president of Wounded Warrior Anglers, at 423-620-9104.

The winner of the boat raffle will be announced no later than May 26, 2014 at the Olde Fish House Marina, 4350 Pine Island Rd., Matlacha, Florida. The winner need not be present to win. The winner is responsible for the tag, title, delivery, dealer prep, registration and all applicable taxes.

“This is our largest fundraiser that pairs with the tournament on Memorial Day weekend,” Souders said of the Original Redfish Poker Fishing Championship. “This is how we raise funds to provide the Wounded Warrior and Caregiver Retreat for warriors, caregivers, spouses and children.”

The organization holds four large retreats for wounded warriors and their caregivers each year. Wounded Warrior Anglers helps its warriors by taking them out on the water for a day of fishing, which promotes a friendly and peaceful environment to help warriors heal. They also help the warrior’s caregivers by treating them to a day of relaxation at Spa 33 in Matlacha.

Purchase a raffle ticket and help support this organization that is doing so much for our warriors and caregivers.

Last year, the 5013c organization raffled off an 18-foot NauticStar, 1810 Nautic Bay boat.

Check out the other blogs I have written about the organization: https://meghan80.wordpress.com/wounded-warrior-anglers-of-america-inc/

 

Meet the WWA board of directors

battle of matlacha

In June of this year, I had the privilege of joining six other board members for the organization, Wounded Warrior Anglers of America, Inc.

I, Meghan McCoy, was first introduced to the organization on Father’s Day in 2012 while covering the Save Our Servicemembers (S.O.S.) event for the Pine Island Eagle. I remember sitting at a picnic table at the Olde Fish House Marina interviewing Dave after he finished speaking at the event. His passion for this organization got me, he truly wanted to help others.

From that moment on, Dave, Judy and I formed an incredible friendship. As I continued to write articles about the organization for the Pine Island Eagle, my love and interest for what they did grew. I was constantly being touched.

This organization has given me the opportunity to thank our service men and women, as well as their caregivers with the simple gesture of shaking their hand or speaking the words thank you.

The excerpt below was taken from another blog I have written, something that I think about often.

The moments I shared with Angel, who served in the Army for 26 ½ years, tugged at my heart. As we sat there, he shared a few stories of when he was deployed, which truly meant a lot to me.

Before I said goodbye, I thanked him. He instantly asked what did I do? I said you served our country and fought for our freedom. The emotion he shared at that moment will be a part of me forever. It still gives me goose bumps as I sit and write about it now. These men and women who join the service do not do it anticipating a thank you from us civilians, but rather because something called them to that job.

The honesty in Angel’s eyes touched me in a way I cannot explain. I told him just know that you are appreciated before I shook his hand once again.

Wounded Warrior Anglers is an incredible organization that “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.”

This organization, which was founded in 2012 by Dave, president, and his wife Judy, vice president, has grown leaps and bounds since its inception. That growth happened with the help of many dedicated individuals who all want to make a difference in our wounded warrior lives, as well as their caregivers.

Tate Hutchinson, Treasurer 

Tate Hutchinson, Judy and Dave’s son, is a founding board member . He is an industrial mechanic who lives in Martinsburg, WV who loves to fish. He was in the Army for two years with the 82nd AirBorn.

“I bring my experience of the military service and my love of fishing in hope to accomplish healing the souls of our military men and women for all they have given to our country and its freedom,” Tate said. “We are trying to help heal and give back to our soldiers for all that they have sacrificed for our country. In my opinion, this is one of the most important organizations in our country helping our veterans.”

Marlene Randolph

Marlene Randolph is another founding board member of Wounded Warrior Anglers. She became a member after Dave and Judy asked her help make their idea come to fruition of helping soldiers when they come home.

“Let them know we appreciate their sacrifice and help them find some peace in the normal,” Marlene said.

Marlene lives in Tennessee where she is the owner of ServiceMaster of Greeneville, TN and The Handy Man in Afton, TN.

Lisa Dence

Lisa Dence decided to become a member of the board after a benefit was held at the Olde Fish House Marina, where her and her husband are managers, in June 2012. She moved to Southwest Florida from upstate New York in August 2002.

“I met David and Judy and knew this was an orgnaization I would want our business to support,” Lisa said, adding that Dave asked her to become a board member in 2012. “I am honored to be a part of Wounded Warrior Anglers. David and Judy are amazing people that truly are about making a difference.”

Lisa provides the organization with property in Matlacha, FL – a marina, water access for captains for their boats, as well as open air seating where the wounded warriors and caregivers gather at the end of fishing and spa retreats. She said she also offers the understanding of how important it is to help these wounded warriors through this very stressful time.

“My goal is to make a difference and lasting positive memory even if it is only for a day to let them know that they are not forgotten and how grateful we are for their sacrifice and service,” Lisa said.

Kevin Santos

Kevin Santos, who became a part of the organization in March 2013, enlisted in the Army in 1985.

“I met Dave at a PTSD group at the VA Clinic in June of 2012, I had never heard of his organization and as he was telling me about it, his face was lit with joy,” Kevin said. “I decided to go fishing with him and we had a great time. I have since spent a lot of time volunteering to help him with whatever he needed. We became good friends.”

Kevin believed he could still help the organization more, so he asked Dave if there was anything else he could do, which granted him a member of the board of directors.

The school Kevin had signed up for had been canceled and he was sent home in the late 80s. He returned approximately seven months later to continue school as a concrete mobile mixer operator. Kevin graduated and was selected to attend Ranger school and was later recruited by the special operations command and sent to SFAS.

“In 1986, I graduated from SFAS and was assigned to the 10th Special Forces unit at Ft. Devens in Massachusetts. I spent six years with 10th group and was deployed to Libya, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama and Iraq,” Kevin shared. “I returned from Iraq in 1991 and was assigned to a special task force to train members of the other branches of the military in repelling and close quarters combat.”

Unfortunately Kevin fell from a 60 foot repelling tower and was paralyzed for four years, spent two additional years in a wheel chair before walking with crutches and a cane for two more years.

In 1999, he joined the National Guard and trained as a medic and was stationed in San Antonio and Wyoming for a total of two years. In 2002, he returned to active duty and did another tour in Iraq, then Korea before joining the 101st and did two more tours in Iraq. Kevin finally retired in October 2007 and moved to Cape Coral, FL.

Kevin brings a great deal of ideas to the organization, which he explains are sometimes so far out of the box they have their own zip code.

“I would like to see the organization become a national organization and have members in every state in the U.S. and be able to do more for their veterans and their caregivers,” Kevin said.

The organization stands out for Kevin and is like no other veteran organization because it has a lot of younger veterans involved. He said Wounded Warrior Anglers also includes the caregivers in many activities and retreats, which he also enjoys.

“I feel that just by being around other veterans and going out to go fishing or hunting or just doing something with them, I have improved my life,” Kevin said. “I am getting better at coping with stress and my PTSD just because I know that nothing will ever happen that will spark a relapse or a flashback while I am with them, they have my back and I have theirs.”

John Lynch

John Lynch, a lieutenant with the Cape Coral Fire Department, became a board member four months ago. The Matlacha resident fishes almost every single day that he is home off of his dock.

“I was having lunch at the Olde Fish House and overheard Judy and David Souders setting up their first fundraiser and introduced myself,” John said. “I thought Tammey and Nadine at Spa 33 might help out with the wives, girlfriends and caregivers. It’s the best way I thought we could help. Tammey and Nadine loved the idea and really ran with it.”

(Note: The Wounded Warrior Anglers offer a Warrior and Caregiver Retreat throughout the year. Warriors are treated to a day out on the water fishing, thanks to the generosity of captains and their boats. The caregivers are also treated at Spa 33 in Matlacha with a day of pampering – manicure, facials, massages, make-up and their hair styled)

John said he would like to help Wounded Warrior Anglers grow and touch as many returning wounded warriors as possible. He said it stands out as a local, home-grown, small organization that David and Judy started to provide a positive experience for our returning service men and women.

“What I bring to this organization is a tiny thank you for the sacrifice, service and dedication that these men and women and their families have provided for protecting our nation and its freedoms,” John said.

Tony Rogers

Tony Rogers purchased a home more than two years ago and made the area near Matlacha on the water his permanent home in June 2012.

He served as a federal immigration judge in Dallas, TX for more than 17 years until he retired in 2010. Tony is also a retired Army Colonel. He served as an infantry officer and combat aviator during the Vietnam War. After law school,  he served as a judge advocate and military judge for the duration of his career. His career also includes serving as a professor at law schools, as well as on the faculty of the National Judicial College.

“I ran into Dave and Judy at Publix shortly after moving here and the ‘Army Ranger’ sticker on the back on my SUV got Dave’s attention and we began talking about Wounded Warrior Anglers,” Tony said. “I participated in the first event and was the guy who was out fished by a 13-year-old.”

(Note: Tony donated his time and boat as a volunteer captain to take the wounded warriors out on the water during a retreat.)

Shortly after participating in that event he was asked if he would like to become a board member.

“I enjoy the opportunity to interact with the warriors and to give them a positive experience. As a combat veteran from Vietnam, I served as an infantry officer and pilot. I know something of what these folks bring home with them and the nation was not as welcoming in my era, so I am happy to provide a better experience. The guys I have taken out have a wide range of challenges including extensive TBI, amputations and early onset dementia relating to IED’s.”

Tony said overall his participation with the organization has been a rewarding experience.

“I think I get more out of it than the folks I take out,” he said. “We seldom talk about war or combat, which might surprise the casual observer, but our focus is on fishing and relaxation.”