We are so fortunate to know Nick Kefalides, a retired Marine Corps veteran, who organizes and hosts fishing charters in sunny locations on behalf of Freedom Alliance. This year he’s completed three of these trips, and the most recent was earlier this month in the Florida Keys.
Two Conchs Charters of Marathon, Florida, gave us a greatly discounted two days of fishing for Nick and four other Marine Corps guests.
Also, Tunaskin Aquatic Apparel hooked us up once again with Freedom Alliance shirts for this event, with custom artwork by Dennis Friel Art Studios.
Over the course of the weekend, the crew of five took in a enough fish to provide dinners for both days out on the water. In addition to rods and reels, the men tried their hands at spearfishing and snorkeling.
On the charter we hosted two Jeremys, who had served together in the Marine Corps since boot camp. They each deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan for combat, where one Jeremy sustained brain injuries from a harrowing encounter with a suicide bomber, and later an improvised explosive that struck his vehicle. Both have since retired from the Corps.
Steve, who joined us in the Keys, has been a Marine since just before the 9/11 attack. As part of a reconnaissance battalion, he participated in raids in Iraq, and later Afghanistan. He’s since then taught special operations at Camp Lejeune and worked security at the U.S. embassy in Kabul.
“It’s certainly worth more than I can put into words,” said Steve about the fishing trip, “for veterans like ourselves to escape, relax with our brothers, and get that sense of freedom out on the water together.”
Steve wants ultimately to work with his fellow veterans, and he’s currently using GI Bill benefits to earn a degree with that goal in mind.
We also invited Mo along for the trip. Mo was first on a chemical/biological incident response force when a terrorist bombed the Olympics in Atlanta. He also deployed to Iraq in the early 2000s, as well as three times to Afghanistan with Special Operations Command.
Mo, who was injured in Fallujah, talked about the times of transition that make one vulnerable, such as his own experience: retiring from the Corps after nearly 18 years. He said that when he reconnects with other Marines, such as on the Florida Keys fishing charter, “I feel restrengthened.”
“It’s times like this weekend that make this easier for me,” he said. “It’s really comforting to know that there are good people out here too.”
And that’s why what Nick and other Americans are doing, by working with Freedom Alliance to make a difference in the lives of veterans, is so incredibly vital.