Reel Fun: Vets Fish, Form Bonds At Freedom Waters Event

Reel Fun: Vets Fish, Form Bonds At Freedom Waters Event

walking
More than 20  military veterans looked as though they were professional fishermen early Sunday, with bait and tackle in hand, ready to catch fish and enjoy the camaraderie among those who served in the armed forces.

Vets of all ages and from all military branches met inside the clubhouse at the Naples Boat Club before enthusiastically climbing into the eight fishing boats, which set out to Naples Bay as the sun’s rays appeared over rooftops.

Sunday’s fishing event was part of a veterans program run by the Freedom Waters Foundation, a nonprofit organization that hosts boating events year-round for people with disabilities or life-threatening illnesses, children who are at risk and veterans.

When Jay Shelly, of Bonita Springs, walked into the clubhouse, minutes before reporting to one of the boats, he proudly donned a Vietnam War baseball cap and showed off his furry pal, Sarg, a 3-year-old terrier mix service dog. While Shelly couldn’t take him on the boat due to the summer heat, he didn’t need him as much after seeing his vet friends.

“When he’s with the vets, he doesn’t have to have his dog,” his wife, Becky Shelly, said. She also tagged along to see her husband off before he ventured out on his fishing adventure.

 

Since serving in Vietnam, Jay Shelly, 68, has suffered from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and said his dog helps keep him calm. So do his fellow vets.

“It’s good to get together with people you can talk to, instead of counseling. This is all for fun,” he said.

All month long, Freedom Waters Foundation has hosted boating and marine-related activities in Naples, Fort Myers and Fort Lauderdale.

Connie Nagele, one of the many FWF volunteers, led Sunday’s event. She said Freedom Waters focuses on improving “the lives of individuals of special needs, and veterans. Basically, we want to take families dealing with life-threatening illnesses and veterans out for a relaxing day in the water.”

David Fieselman, of Marco Island, shared a boat with two friends and fellow vets, Victor Rios and Alan Short, also of Marco Island.

“We’re the three amigos,” said Fieselman, 74, a Vietnam War veteran, as they waited for their names to be called out to report to their assigned boat.

Fieselman served between 1968 to 1971 as a venereal disease doctor and chief medical officer in Alabama. One of his jobs was to examine the draftees, who he said would stand in long lines stark naked.

His buddy Rios, 73, now a Marco Island city councilor, served in the Army from 1962 to 1963. Short, 75, also served in the Army during the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1969 in the 44th Medical Brigade.

“I would fly out to villages (in Vietnam) and treat kids. … I spent the rest of the time in a clinic treating G.I.’s. … Compared to what others had to do, I was very lucky,” Short said.

Interested volunteers and/or vets can get involved by visiting www.freedomwatersfoundation.org or calling 239-248-1120. 

Reel Fun: Vets Fish, Form Bonds At Freedom Waters Event

Click here to view the original article