After Action Report – The Fallen Outdoors
Event name: Annual Free Veterans Deep Sea Fishing Trip
Date of event: May 20, 2021
Location: Hampton, New Hampshire
Fishing Vessel: Northern Star
Sponsoring organization: Al Gauron Deep Sea Fishing & Whale Watching
Number of veterans affected: 48
Trip coordinator: Michael Chase
Summary of Events
The COVID-19 pandemic will have a profound and lasting effect upon the men and women of the veteran community for decades to follow. Servicemembers returning from long and hard-fought wars overseas, often sacrificing everything to protect their loved ones back home are at an increased risk for developing mental health problems related to PTDS, social withdrawal, depression and anxiety. The facts suggest that up to one third of returning servicemembers experience these symptoms within the first three months of being “home” and as a result, the prevalence of suicide is as high as 22 veteran per day (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, 2014). Social isolation related to the pandemic has affected the veteran population in ways that may take years to unravel but one constant remains true, there will always be Americans such as Angel Eaton and April Nicoll ready and able to lift these heroes up on their darkest days.
The focus of this event may have been fishing, but the healing of these warriors was strengthened and fostered through the camaraderie and fellowship exonerated by those around them. The excitement for them began well over a month ago with the announcement of an entire day out to sea fishing for haddock, pollock and cod, donated by the Al Gauron family. Travel arrangements were immediately made, and veterans traveled from all over the region to come together in support of one another, with the furthest traveler flying in from Alabama several days prior to stay with his “former Army buddy”. Those were his words, and I smiled as I listened to him talk in his long southern drawl because even though those two met each other for the first time just yesterday, I knew that because of this trip, they had created a bond that during their darkest hour they could lean on to get them through and ward off their demons. That is what these events are truly about and why it is so crucial for Americans such as Angel and April to facilitate the opportunity for healing of our men and women returning from service.
Captain Pete put the ship filled with heroes on fish after fish resulting in many sore arms and full coolers. The “bite” was slow in the morning and the crew worked hard grinding away to ensure that the action remained “hot”. We were fortunate to have the presence of a real life “movie-star” named Jax onboard and he not only kept a ship full of nearly 50 veterans laughing and amicably joking with one another but swiftly and deftly ensured operations ran smoothly. I did not keep count, but I would bet that the mates Jax and Steve unsnarled several dozen lines, hauled in the heavy “drift sock” ten times at the order from Captain Pete and worked well after we had moored pier-side cutting up the fish caught and securing the ship from sea.
As the veterans disembarked from the ship laden with heavy coolers full of fish and smiles on their face, it was easy to see that they were leaving with much more than meat for their freezer. The bonds formed, the networks established, and memories fostered during this day will emit and instill within them a sense of belonging to propel them through darker times. This trip was coordinated by fellow veteran Michael Chase with the help from The Fallen Outdoors, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization for veterans whose mission is to reduce the prevalence of suicide in our veteran community. For more information, please visit the Fallen Outdoors Website or if you are a veteran join the Facebook page for upcoming events.
Assistant Team Leader – New England
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. http://iava.org/content/post-traumatic-stress-disorder (accessed July 20, 2014)