We at Freedom Alliance believe there’s nothing quite so restorative as fine weather, blue Pacific waters, and breathtaking beaches. Our good friend and longtime supporter Paul Bender of the Hobby People thinks so too … and he’s got a really big boat to take him there!
Paul asked us to find veterans who might join him on his 40-foot yacht, Summertime, in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, for some fishing in the Sea of Cortez. “Get them here, and I’ll take care of the rest,” he said.
Well, it wasn’t hard to locate some takers. Four, to be precise.
We met Army Sergeant John at Walter Reed five years ago after he’d returned from Iraq when his leg was destroyed by a bomb blast. Today, after numerous surgeries to save the other leg, John walks steadily with a prosthetic. He agreed to test his “sea legs” with us on Paul’s boat, and so we booked his flights and escorted him to Mexico.
From South Carolina, Josh was another of our traveling companions. When a roadside bomb detonated in Iraq in 2007, Josh’s right hand was gravely injured. Nine surgeries later and very little improvement, he decided to have the limb amputated. Even so, the man can still fish, and that’s what he set out to do.
We also connected with Marine Sergeant Adam, who we met during his recovery at the Wounded Warrior Battalion. He was injured in Afghanistan by enemy machine gun fire and hand grenades.
Adam, in turn, introduced us to Marine Corporal Eric, who deployed to Iraq in 2003 and 2004. While on duty, he was exposed to all sorts of weapons’ fire and explosions, and as a result he is 100 percent disabled. Both Adam and Eric live in the San Diego area.
When all arrived in Cabo San Lucas, Paul welcomed us and arranged for a seafood dinner at an outdoor restaurant. The men feasted on fresh scallops, mahi mahi, and lobster under strands of lanterns and twinkling lights, while a mariachi band sang Latin favorites.
The next morning, the servicemen boarded Paul’s yacht and we steered out through choppy waters, all the while spotting dolphins, manta rays, and sea turtles.
Cabo San Lucas is known for its golden rock formation, El Arco, which creates an shoreline bridge at the southern tip of land. Paul took us here so we could pose for the camera in our very dapper Tunaskin shirts, which Tunaskin Aquatic Apparel had donated for the trip. (These shirts keep you cool in hot weather, while also protecting you from the sun.)
The men fished, and Eric fought with a wily marlin for some time, but eventually the boat anchored in a small cove with a white sand beach so our veterans could enjoy a swim.
Paul ended the day by sharing another stellar dinner of seafood and traditional Mexican fare to sustain the crew for the next day’s fishing.
With calmer seas, John reeled in a mahi mahi on the second day, but the other small catch was fed to the marina’s resident pet—Pablo the sea lion, who is quite a character.
Dinner that evening was at “The Roadhouse,” where the patrons treated our servicemen to drinks and toasts. Paul asked Canadian musician Peter Bacon to perform especially for the Freedom Alliance party, which he did, tickling the piano keys and singing to popular sea shanties and other songs of the sea. He also played “America the Beautiful” and we all sang along.
The men said goodbye to Paul the next morning and flew away to their respective homes. John told us how much it meant to be honored by Freedom Alliance, and how much he appreciated Paul’s openhandedness with the veterans.
Paul has invited Freedom Alliance to repeat this trip again, and we think we will take him up on it, searching for other service members who could use a bit of open water, coastal air, and the express kindness of a very big heart.