Injured servicemembers get away from hospital to fish

  • Published
  • By Michael Tolzmann
  • Army and Air Force Hometown News Service
A bad day fishing is a whole lot better than a good day at work, said one Soldier here. 

For 38 injured servicemembers from the Warrior Transition Unit from the Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, a day of free fishing meant a day away from treatment to have some fun on this south Texas lake known for its excellent bass fishing.

Hosted by the Quality Bass Club of San Antonio for the fourth year, Fishing For Freedom paired servicemembers with volunteers in a professional-styled fishing competition Nov. 3.

"I love this. Today is a great day," said Army Spc. James King, who has been undergoing rehabilitation for nearly a year. He was serving with the Arkansas Army National Guard in Iraq as a motor transport operator when he was injured.

"Anything we can do for these servicemembers, we should do. We just don't do enough for these guys," said Cal Binehof, the Quality Bass Club event organizer.

"It's devastating what some of these guys have been through. It's hard for some of them just to get out of bed. We had a few who didn't make it today who were not feeling good. But doing something like this is a part of the healing process. They just need a break," Mr. Binehof said.

With corporate sponsorship in the form of volunteers and monitory donations, Valero Energy Corp. and the Non Commissioned Officers Association feed the servicemembers before and after the fishing, and provided gifts and prizes following the official fish weigh-in at the conclusion of the fishing competition. All boaters and servicemembers got on stage, had their fish weighed, and held up their catch of the day for the audience to see. Nearly everyone caught at least one fish.

"It was a blast just being on the water. It didn't even matter if we caught any fish. Just being out here makes a big difference," said 13-year veteran Army Staff Sgt. Deron Santini who caught a largemouth bass that weighed nearly 2 pounds.

Sergeant Santini was serving with the Louisiana Army National Guard south of Baghdad in 2005, when an improvised explosive device hit his vehicle. He said he really enjoyed "getting out" to go fishing.

The Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife allowed for all servicemembers to fish for free, and provided free entrance to the state park on this reservoir located approximately 80 miles south of San Antonio.

"It's nice. It's relaxing. I think it's a really good program whenever you do something for Soldiers. It's really good getting Soldiers out of their 'box' and helping them forget about some of their stuff. I know a lot of the Soldiers are going through the medical process by themselves, so it's really good when you have people do this for us," said Army Sgt. Joseph Reyes, an infantryman from the Texas Army National Guard undergoing medical treatment and assigned to the WTU.

Army Spc. Alexander Marmer pulled in the winning fish, a largemouth bass that weighed approximately 4.5 pounds. He hauled in a second bass that also weighed more than 4 pounds. Born in the Ukraine, Specialist Marmer's regular job is as a police officer in New York City. He said he doesn't get to do something like this very often. Specialist Marmer was attached to the Alaska Army National Guard in Kuwait when he was injured.

"I really appreciate everything the troops do for us to keep us free. And it allows us to do things like fish," said John Voght of Boerne, Texas, who volunteered his boat and time to ferry King around the lake.

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