Last year, Tournament Director Jasen Gast invited Freedom Alliance to be a beneficiary of the “fastest-growing billfish tournament in Texas”: the Texas Billfish Classic (TBC). Located in Freeport, Texas, the tournament consists of a patriotic and competitive crowd; and adding an element to honor our troops was a great fit. The first year, we hosted four combat-wounded troops to a fishing getaway courtesy of the tournament, which also raised over $4,000 in cash contributions.
This year, we asked a new group of veterans to fly into Texas to experience this blue-collar town and the fun fishing excitement in the Gulf of Mexico. The troops arrived several days before the tournament kick-off to relax at a beautiful beachfront house donated by Blue Water Resort Sales & Rentals. The mayor of Freeport, Troy Brimage, donated two days of near-shore fishing on his 36’ yellowfin charter business “Prima Donna Charters”. The group of veterans consisted of:
Steve: Marine Corps Sergeant Major Steve was injured during the Battle of Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004. He was serving as Fox Company’s First Sergeant (2d Bn, 1st Mar Div) when an IED detonated under his vehicle, killing the machine gunner and seriously wounding Steve and the three other Marines − all of whom were evacuated stateside for emergency treatment. He currently lives in North Carolina.
Chris: Christopher retired from the Army as a Staff Sergeant and was severely injured during Operation Iraqi Freedom when his patrol was ambushed, and his door was struck with a RPG causing injuries to his face, right arm and right hand. SSG Chris was able to remain conscious and continued to fight. After emergency care was performed at the Battalion Aid Station, Chris was sent to Landstuhl Germany and eventually to Walter Reed where he underwent multiple reconstructive surgeries. He continues to suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress.
Darrell: Air Force Tech Sergeant Darrell served on three combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was medically retired at 100% total and permanently for PTSD.
Mike: Staff Sergeant Michael served for over 18 years in the Army National Guard as an M1 Armor Crewman. He deployed to Iraq in 2005-06 where he was wounded by numerous roadside bombs (for which he received the Purple Heart Medal). He suffers from a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The men enjoyed the exciting charter, catching their limit of king mackerel fish the first day and pursuing other species the second. Our friends at Tunaskin Aquatic Apparel treated each veteran to a customized performance fishing shirt, hat, and neck sleeve or “joker”, complete with artwork donated by marine wildlife artist Steve Goione and personalized with each veteran’s name and service logo. Costa Sunglasses also donated shirts, a hat, and a pair of their new 580 Polarized Glass sunglasses. Even if they didn’t know how to fish, they would look like they did! In fact, the troops wouldn’t wear their Tunaskin shirts out fishing because “they are too nice,” commented one veteran.
Tournament videographer Rich Christensen of RK Creative Productions donated his skills to showcase Freedom Alliance and our fishing excursion to the audience and participants of the TBC, which resulted in a standing ovation during the kick-off party.
The troops left on the first official fishing day of the tournament, and Freedom Alliance had two more veterans come in…but that’s a different story…