Nine Wounded Warrior Anglers and six caregivers attended the Wounded Warrior Anglers Captain's Dinner Saturday night. The group met at Olde Fish House Marina.
"We had a great crowd," Wounded Warrior Anglers Inc. co-founder Judy Souders said. "There was something like 40 people at the dinner. Tomorrow the guys will go fishing and I will escort the ladies to Spa 33 where they will be treated to a Spa 33 treatment; makeup, hair, nails, massages and the works."
David Souders, co-founder of Wounded Warrior Anglers, said, "Tomorrow, when we go fishing, we'll have four boats going out. Tonight we'll have dinner, talk, get to know one another and explain what we will be doing tomorrow. We'll explain who will be in each boat, who their captain's are and let the caregivers get to know one another."
Those involved in the Wounded Warrior Anglers’ retreat this past weekend on the islands. The group included nine wounded warriors and six of their caregivers.
Chuck "Ironman" Weinberg and his caregiver, June Haber, attended the event. Weinberg was a radio operator and translator in Vietnam between April 1967 and May 1968 - during the Tet Offensive.
"I enlisted in the Marine Corp in January 1966 right out of high school, I was 19 years old," Weinberg said. "When I'm just sitting around I try to not think about Vietnam because I have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I didn't even know I had PTSD until I moved to Florida a few years ago."
Habel explained, "Whenever it would come up he would say, 'I don't know what everybody's complaining about, I went into the Marines, did what I had to do and came home.' I would ask him questions but never got any answers. But when we came to Florida and saw the 'Traveling Wall' and one thing led to another everything changed."
The Vietnam "Traveling Wall" is a 3/5 scale of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. It is about 6 feet tall and nearly 300 feet long. It serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made by our service men and women during the Vietnam War (1959-1975). One of the stops for the wall was in Punta Gorda.
"What happened was the group I belonged to, the Vietnam Brotherhood, went to see the Traveling Wall in Punta Gorda," Weinberg said. "The Vietnam Brotherhood was founded by five in-country Vietnam veterans in 1998 and grew from there. We're basically a social organization that conduct fund-raisers through neighborhood parties and sporting events. But mostly we help each other, just like Wounded Warrior Anglers. One of the guys there asked me what my 'problems' were. At that time I didn't really realize I had any problems and I certainly didn't realize the various diseases I had were associated with Agent Orange. When I got sick in 2003 I just didn't know the symptoms were linked to Agent Orange and the doctors just kept asking about family history.
"Vietnam Brotherhood and a number of other veterans organizations are looking to build a permanent Vietnam Wall in Veteran's Park in Punta Gorda," Weinberg said. "The city of Punta Gorda has donated the land and the engineering for the groundwork and agreed to maintaining the grounds once the wall is built. So we're working to raise the funds."
"These groups help these guys so much," caregiver June Habel said. "They meet every week and offer support to each other."
"Wounded Warrior Anglers has a new chapter, Chapter #2, in Charlotte Harbor called 'Charlotte Harbor Snook Slayers,'" David Souders said. "Their Commandant is Keith Neal."
Neal is currently serving in the U.S. Navy as a recruiter in Port Charlotte, Fla. He has served for 22 years and is nearing retirement. Neal got involved about one year ago at a fund-raising tournament and began taking warriors out fishing.
"I'm just here to help Dave and Judy out," Neal said. "They need all of the help they can get. The more help Dave and Judy can get the more veteran's they can help."
The day of fishing began by having breakfast Saturday morning. After breakfast every angler was presented with a fishing rod and reel. The equipment was donated by James and Dee Brennan, owners of Center Bait and Tackle on Pine Island.
Once breakfast was over and the warriors boarded the boats to go fishing and the caregivers were treated to a day at the spa where they were pampered with manicures, pedicures, facials, massages and have their makeup done by a professional - all provided by Spa 33.
"There was a lot of emotion came out during our spa treatments," Judy Souders said. "JoAnne Catlin, manager of Wells Fargo Bank, came over and did makeup for us."
Later Saturday afternoon, once the warriors returned from fishing, they were joined by their caregivers for a fish fry and to share stories about the fish they caught.
Dave Souders, who served in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield, said Wounded Warrior Anglers reaches out to veterans of every war.
"But most have come from the more recent wars of Desert Storm, Desert Shield, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom," he said. "Warriors come to Wounded Warrior Anglers Inc. in a variety of ways. Some are referred by the VA, some through other vets and some find us at various events we have in the area.
"They all caught some great fish and everyone had a great time," he said. "Our goal is to create a camaraderie among the vets and their families and I think we accomplish that. All in all everyone had a great time and some of these new friendships will be friends for a long time to come. They all share the common bond of war."
The Souders said they would like to thank Chris Sanders and his partners, Lisa and Darrell Dence, Tammy Lynch, James and Dee Brennan, and Nadine Southall and staff at Spa 33 plus all the captains and first mates.
For additional information, visit www.WoundedWarriorAnglers.org