“Our Christmas comes from our heart”

“Our Christmas comes from our heart”

Organization makes holiday a little brighter for Cape family

Published in Cape Coral Daily Breeze Dec. 18, 2014 issue

A Cape Coral family received a little holiday cheer Wednesday night from the Wounded Warrior Anglers Act of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund to help them through some financial hardships.

“With all of our warriors that are members, board members, volunteers and everybody that donates and makes Wounded Warrior Anglers possible, I want them to know that they are part of helping somebody come through the month of December financially,” Wounded Warrior Anglers Vice President Judy Souders said. “I want them to know they are a part of that. All of us coming together over the last three years have made this possible. Everybody coming together and doing a little here and a little bit there has all added up.”

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

Melissa and Eddie Breese were the first to benefit from the newly established fund on Wednesday, Oct. 22, because of hardship they were experiencing. After the donation was made, a community member reached out to Wounded Warrior Anglers and donated gas gift cards and food gift cards to further assist the family with their needs.

Since that donation, Eddie’s condition has become worse. Now with only one income, a part-time income, trying to make ends meet to pay the bills and put food on the table, has become extremely difficult.

To help alleviate some of that financial burden the family is experiencing, the Wounded Warrior Anglers Act of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund donated $1,200 to the Breese family again on Wednesday.

Wounded Warrior Anglers Act of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund Committee Member Kevin Purdy, Melissa Breese, Eddie Breese, Gracie, the Breese’s granddaughter, and Wounded Warrior Anglers Vice President Judy Souders.

Wounded Warrior Anglers Act of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund Committee Member Kevin Purdy, Melissa Breese, Eddie Breese, Gracie, the Breese’s granddaughter, and Wounded Warrior Anglers Vice President Judy Souders.

“It shocked me,” Melissa said of the donation amount. “We have good people around us like Judy and all the Anglers.”

The donation will help the Breese family pay for their December monthly bills, as well as put food on the table.

“Without a question, there is an absolute blessing to be in a situation to help people like that,” Wounded Warrior Anglers Act of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund Committee Member Kevin Purdy said. “It touches you so deeply. You can’t put it into words.”

Eddie, a Fort Myers High School graduate, enlisted in the Marine Corps and served in Desert Storm from 1988 to 1992. After returning from the service he started working on roofs, while owning his own business at one time.

Unfortunately on Sept. 11, Eddie took a bad fall, falling 25 feet through a skylight to the concrete. That fall broke his back, mangled his right arm, broke his ribs and gave him severe head trauma.

After Lee Memorial Health System released him after the accident, Melissa took her husband to the VA clinic in Cape Coral. He then was taken to Bay Pines VA Healthcare System.

While he was at Bay Pines he spent time going to a speech pathologist, physical therapist and occupational therapist.

Eddie returned home on Friday, Oct. 17, after spending two months in the hospital.

Melissa said since October he has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and began having focal seizures because of the head trauma.

“Some days he may have one or two,” she said Wednesday night. “The day before yesterday he had six.”

Melissa said when he has a seizure it is as if Eddie is staring right through her with no response.

“He looks dead,” she said.

Limited funds have made it hard for Melissa to drive Eddie to Tampa to see the doctor.

With working part-time and being a full-time caregiver, Melissa said they had to send their 1-year-old son, Keygan, to West Virginia to stay with family.

Although the family is struggling, Melissa remains positive.

“At least I have him at the end of the day and God saved him,” she said. “We have him and that’s what is important.”

Melissa said Eddie has always been her best friend.

“It’s always been Eddie and I,” she said, adding that they used to play co-ed softball and volleyball together. “That is what saved his life. If his body was not in the shape he was in, he would have never survived that. He is fighting every day.”

Souders said being able to help the Breese family is what Christmas is all about.

“That is a big part of our Christmas because our Christmas comes from our heart,” she said.

Community members, who would like to continue the spirit of Christmas and help the Breese family, can contact Souders at (423) 620-9104. Any gift donated to the Wounded Warrior Anglers Act of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund is tax deductible.

‘Tee Up for Heroes’ to benefit WWA

A fundraiser for Wounded Warrior Anglers will be held on Monday, Nov. 10, at Pelican’s Nest Golf Club, at Pelican Landings in Bonita Springs.

battle of matlachaKathy Swift, who is putting together the event, said the golf tournament, “Tee Up for Heroes,” is completely filled as of Monday, Oct. 20. She said they have 30 foursome teams participating.

Wounded Warrior Anglers Vice President Judy Souders said they have 10 veterans golfing in the tournament, as well as six veterans volunteering the day of the event.

“We are literally maxed out. For the first one here we are doing fine,” Swift said. “Hopefully next year, since this is the first time, we will be able to use both courses.”

The inaugural “Tee Up for Heroes” golf tournament begins at 12:30 p.m.

It will include MREs, meals ready to eat, for the golfers, to keep with the theme of the day, honoring veterans.

“A lot of these guys when they are out in battle they carry these MREs because they can be gone for a few days,” Swift explained. “So they open these packets up and that’s their meal.”

On the day of the tournament, the golfers will receive their very own MREs, or a boxed lunch, of a chicken wrap, fruit, cookies and a drink.

Instead of having the normal flag at each hole on the golf course, kids will be standing at each hole with an American flag.

The dinner, which will begin around 5 p.m., will include hors d’oeuvre, the main course, a drink, entertainment and a silent auction.

Tickets are $60 per person and can be purchased at http://www.woundedwarrioranglers.org, or by calling Swift at (239) 948-8478.

Swift said she has room for approximately 50 more people.

Former private musician of President Eisenhower, John Felice, will provide the entertainment during dinner. Felice, who performed in the Navy band is 83 years old.

“Boy can he play,” she said.

The Pelican Landing Singers will also perform patriotic songs, as well as songs for each branch of the military.

The silent auction will include such items as paintings, golf certificates, a cruise, a three-day trip to the Kentucky Derby with all expenses paid, baskets of wine, and two dinners for six people at two different homes.

All of the proceeds from the tournament and dinner will be donated to Wounded Warrior Anglers.

“Wounded Warrior Anglers is very honored and fortunate to have that committee from Pelicans Nest Golf community to represent us and honor our veterans,” Souders said. “In turn Wounded Warrior Anglers can honor more wounded warriors through our organization.”

Although this is the fourth tournament Swift has held for wounded warriors, this is the first one she is hosting in honor of Wounded Warrior Anglers.

“Keith Campbell told me about Wounded Warrior Anglers,” she said.

Swift said she got started with the fundraisers because of her son Michael who was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.

“(When) I got started, my son was a wounded warrior, but at the time I did not know it,” Swift said. “All these guys need our support.”

After hearing about her son having traumatic brain injury, it inspired her to keep going, so she can continue to help wounded warriors.

Over the years, through National Coalition for Patriots, she has helped raise money for Corey Kent, a Cape Coral resident who stepped on an IED while deployed in Afghanistan.

“He was at Walter Reed for almost three years,” she said.

She also helped raise funds for wounded warrior Josh Harwig, who her son Michael knows. With the help of the community, they raised enough for a $62,000 Toyota Tundra in three and a half weeks to help with transportation because his wife was having a baby.

Dave and Judy Souders, founders of Wounded Warrior Anglers.

Dave and Judy Souders, founders of Wounded Warrior Anglers.

Wounded Warrior Anglers of America, Inc. was founded in 2012 by Dave 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.”

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 the spa.

“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

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.”