The community came together Veterans Day weekend to treat a group of wounded warriors and their significant others to a few days of relaxation.
The 501c3 organization, Wounded Warrior Anglers, Inc., treated 14 wounded warriors, two of which were boat captains, to a day out on the water fishing Nov. 12. Some of their caregivers were also treated to a day of relaxation at Spa 33 in Matlacha.
The group stayed at Anglers Inn while they were in town Sunday and Monday night. Eddie Barnhill Jr. provided a meal for the wounded warriors at The Seafood Spot in Matlacha Sunday night and Olde Fish House Marina Operating Manager Lisa Dence provided them breakfast before they went out fishing Monday morning as well as before they left Tuesday morning.
Christopher Martin, who was in the Marines Corps for six years, took the flag from Kim O’Rourke during a special ceremony Wounded Warrior Anglers Inc. held at the Olde Fish House Marina last week.
A fish fry was held Monday afternoon at the Olde Fish House Marina of what the guys caught while they were out fishing.
Spa 33 closed its doors Monday to treat six caregivers to a day of pampering. The girls traveled from one station to the next to receive manicures, facials, make-up and their hair done, as well as a massage. The girls were also treated to lunch, which was delivered from the Olde Fish House Marina.
Linda Downes, a Pine Island resident, was among the caregivers treated last week.
"I feel amazing," she said after she received the various different services.
Downes has been with her husband, Travis, for 15 years. She said they got together before Travis joined the Army and remained together during and after.
"I wouldn't trade it for the world," Downes said, adding that they made it through thick and thin together.
Her favorite part about the spa day was the massage because the knots went away that she was feeling and was replaced with pure relaxation.
The day at the spa showed her that she should treat herself as well, which she plans to do.
Sherrieann Torres traveled to Matlacha for the weekend with her husband, Frankie, from Land O'Lakes, Fla. The couple has been together for 22 years.
Her husband was in the Army for 19 1/2 years before he medically retired. Frankie was injured in 2004 and retired from the military in 2006, due to brain, neck, back and left leg injuries.
The injuries occurred when he was leaving from Jordan into Iraq and got hit with an IED.
While Frankie was deployed, Sherrieann said she would keep herself busy by volunteering at the school and getting involved in the PTO.
"It kept me busy," she said.
Sherrieann is Frankie's main caregiver, which she said can be stressful at times, but they find ways to work through it. She said since he got involved in the VA, Frankie has been doing better due to the daily recreational therapy.
She, too, said she would not trade anything for the world. She said since her husband's retirement she has missed her military family because they are a real family.
Monday was a true treat for Sherrieann because she had never received a massage before.
"It was very good," she said, smiling.
The day of relaxation at the spa while her husband went fishing touched Sherrieann.
"This has been excellent," she said. "I so appreciate it."
Delayna Harris traveled to the island from Gainesville with her husband, Gary, a Navy veteran, who she has been with for 12 years. When asked about her husband, she replied, "he is my hero."
While Delayna's husband saved a pilot's life, he was injured when fell off the plane and underwent nine months of rehab, which gave him the ability to walk.
Through it all, Delayna has been the caregiver, which has been hard and frustrating at times.
"All that he has sacrificed for my freedom, it's worth it," she said.
Delayna said her husband was excited about the outing for the simple fact that it included her this time.
"This is awesome," she said of Spa 33 treating her to a day of relaxation. "I have never been to a spa, it's really nice and relaxing."
The day was even more special because she had the opportunity to leave the kids at home.
Lisa Scott, who is from Sarasota, also joined the women at the spa. Her husband, Chris, a Navy veteran, was stationed with the Marines. While in the Navy he was hit with a roadside bomb that injured his neck and back on Jan. 8, 2008, in Iraq.
Lisa said now that Chris is medically retired from the Navy, he stays home with their soon-to-be 3-year-old daughter while she goes to Iberia Bank where she is a universal banker.
"I'm glad I got a taste of the military and the lifestyle," she said, because she met a lot of great people while they were stationed in North Carolina.
Lisa thought the day at the spa was awesome because it provided time for her.
"I used to do this all the time, but between work and being a mom" she said she does not have time to fit it in anymore.
Tampa resident Whitney Lyle participated in the weekend of relaxation with her boyfriend, Tito Williams ,who was in the Marines Corps for 10 years and did two tours in Iraq.
She said while he was in the Marines, he was diagnosed with cancer and ended up having reconstruction on both of his feet.
"It's a big responsibility," Lyle said of being his caregiver. "Especially the emotional side."
Although the responsibility is large, she said it is very rewarding.
"When you love someone you are willing to do whatever," Lyle said.
She also works at the VA facility in Tampa because she grew up around the VA when she was younger due to many of her family members being in the military.
"I feel like all my patients are like my grandparents," she said because of the stories that she hears.
The guys fishing meant a lot more to Lyle because it is rewarding to see her boyfriend happy.
"I am happy for him," she said. "It's more rewarding to watch him."
Once the guys returned from their fishing trip, a special ceremony was held for them at the Olde Fish House Marina. A flag from each branch of the service, along with the American flag and the POW/MIA flag, was brought in by motorcycle for each of the wounded warriors to put in its stand.
Cape Coral Mayor John Sullivan also spoke at the intimate ceremony.
"I always love to spend time with the veterans,' he told the crowd. "We would not have our lifestyle, if you will, if it wasn't for our veterans. Everything you have done is appreciated, oversees as well."
Judy and Dave Souders, founders of Wounded Warrior Anglers Inc., also spoke.
"We are so blessed by all of you and our veterans," Judy said. "Once something is blessed you can't stop it."
David said it's nice to see your vision come to fruition.
Christopher Martin said he had a blast while out on the water, especially since he was the first to catch a fish on the boat, which was a shark.
"When you fish it takes your mind off of everything else," the Tampa resident said.
He said the trip was very therapeutic and he would do it again.
Martin was in the Marines for six years before he got out in 2004.
"I made new friends, it was really worthwhile," he said. "I'm glad I was invited."
Chris said it meant a lot to be able to get out on the water with other warriors.
"I feel great," he said. "It kind of takes the pain away a little bit, takes your mind away."
Chris said it meant a lot that a town was so supportive of them.
Frankie agreed that although he was in pain on Monday, going out on the boat was a good distraction.
"This is the best time I have had fishing," he said. "I had a good day, everyone has been kind and generous.'
Frankie said he was thankful for the weekend he had, adding that it was nice to have a community that was so supportive of them.