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Eighty-eight combined years of service to their country, 18 deployments into the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan, countless weeks and months in hospitals, surgeries and rehabilitation facilities.
Think these five wounded warriors are ready to do battle with a 5-7 foot white sturgeon?
You can take it to the bank. These guys are “locked and loaded,“ ready to have a fun day on the water.
As part of the Wounded Warrior Project and The Fallen Outdoors, guides like Donald Koskela, of Pastime Fishing Adventures, of Silverton, volunteer their boats and services for the day.
Koskela has years of experience fishing for sturgeon. He has clients from as far away as Germany, (even Texas) to catch and release sturgeon.
Our five wounded warriors have joined Koskela for the day in his 28-foot Alumnaweld.
Fishing for sturgeon is a rather laid back fishing, that is, until you hook one. There is good reason why some fondly call them “fresh water marlin.”
Koskela drops anchor in one of his marked “hot spots,” the popular Toyota Hole.
A large inflated ball is attached to the anchor line. When a big fish is hooked, the boat is released from the anchor, and the ball remains with the anchor as the boat floats downriver fighting fish.
Koskela baits all five hooks, casts them out, and gives a brief lesson on what the bite looks like, and what should be done.
Anglers will take turns fighting fish. Koskela will coach each angler on; when to take the rod out of the holder and when to set the hook.
Next bite, next angler.
These guys have never met before. They quickly decide, Tim Taylor, of Corvallis should be up first. After all, he has been in the house watching the kids for two weeks.
Tim was Army National Guard and served in Iraq.
He lands the first sturgeon. He had never caught a fish larger than a pan fish. “It was one of the smallest of the day.” Koskela adds.
“I have never seen a guy as excited as Tim was. Later in the day he would land one of the biggest.”
After 15-20 minutes only three small fish have been landed, 2-3 missed.
“O.K., guys, reel ‘em in. We’re moving,” Koskela orders. “Talk about puzzled looks,” Koskela, chuckles later. “They thought fishing was pretty good. Fish were too small. I was looking for bigger fish.”
Next stop on the chart, bites come quickly. Bigger fish.
Neil Bohue, of Happy Valley is next. He is the only one on board representing the Air Force. He is still active and scheduled to retire in a couple of months. Of course, you know these Army/Marines didn’t give Neil a bad time for his “tough life in the air.”
Neil was on assignment at ground zero on 9/11. He is among the many first responders suffering from “the cough.”
Lunch time. Lunch is included with the trip. Most of the guys are prepared for the standard box lunch. Surprise, Koskela fires up the stove on the bow and starts barbecuing chicken. No box lunches on for these guys. Smoke and aroma of chicken on the grill quickly blankets the area, competing with the excitement of doing battle with the two largest fish of the day. Rick Gay, the quiet one, from Eugene, takes his shot at one of the biggest fish of the day. He served six years in the Army. Jayson Southmayd, from Eugene, served a total of 24 combined years of active and reserved, in the Army and Marines.
Jeromy Taylor, of Sandy, served 13 years of active duty in the Army. He was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq four times. He recently went on a Wounded Warrior sponsored duck hunting trip. “I plan on crowding in as many of these outdoor trips as I can,” he muses, matter of factually. Doctors have told him he will be in a wheelchair in 10 years. On a sunny day in October, five total strangers, a microcosm of our often forgotten, wounded warriors, bonded forever through service to their country, and the price they have paid, come together on a 28-foot boat for a day of “man therapy.”
Each eventually shares bits and pieces of their story. Fifteen sturgeon landed. Each guy has landed a fish. These brave warriors, each live with their different levels of pain. When they hook into a powerful fish, the most effective pain killer known to anglers world-wide takes charge, “Fish on.”
Veterans interested in the wounded warriors and The Fallen Outdoors should contact: www.thefallenoutdoors.com and www.woundedwarriorproject.org.
Thank you’s from the Warriors: Jeromy Taylor: Cannot begin to describe my appreciation to Capt. Don from Pastime Fishing Adventures for this wonderful donation to the Wounded Warrior Project and the Fallen Outdoors. The group of service men truly had a wonderful trip taking down fish after fish. Tim Taylor: You are fishing at its finest. Hats off, brother. Jayson Southmayd: Thank you for making our trip one to remember. We not only got on a mess of fish but we had a fantastic day out on the water with fellow warriors.