By Matthew Dunn, Contributing Writer
Region – As the sun peaks through the horizon in Limon Provience, Costa Rica, a boat carrying three men slips off its dock and into the current of the Rio Colorado river. The men on this boat have two goals for their day spent drifting through the river; to catch one of the river’s storied Tarpon, and to continue healing from their wounds they received while serving in the military. The trip they are on is sponsored by Fishing with Warriors, a Westborough-based nonprofit dedicated to helping veterans enjoy fun ways to relax and de-stress, at no cost to them.
Fishing with Warriors was founded in 2015 by three former service members, Alfred Lizotte, Denzil Drewry and Paul George.
Lizotte, who serves as president, is a former member of the U.S. National Guard. He noted the group wanted to give back to service members who fought for our country, by allowing them to participate in something fun, such as a trophy fishing trip or attending a major professional sporting event. Fishing with Warriors handles all costs of these veterans’ trips – transportation, lodging, meals and any entry fees. All donations made to the nonprofit organization are put towards trips for veterans.
“As part of my bucket-list – I believed it was time to give back,” Lizotte said. “It’s always been my intent to give back to veterans and do as much as I can.”
Lizotte is making good on those intentions – and 21-year U.S. Army veteran Dan Darroch has the memories of his excursion to Costa Rica to prove it.
Darroch is a retired U.S. Army First Sergeant and combat medic, having served in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Desert Storm. He also struggles with the effects of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He found his fishing trip through the Fishing with Warriors organization a reflective and productive experience in managing his symptoms.
“The most obvious thing I noticed after being out on the water during the fishing trip to Costa Rica was a calmness that I haven’t felt in a very long time,” Darroch said when describing his trip.
“My mind was clear of the chatter and I was completely immersed in the moment and the ‘hunt’ for the biggest fish I could catch… I was very pleasantly surprised to find that even after we docked for the day and spent the evening at the Lodge, I was still mostly free of the hyper-vigilant tendencies I typically have,” Darroch added.
Whether the trip takes them to Silver King Lodge in Costa Rica to chase trophy Tarpon, or Venice, Louisiana, to find Yellowfin Tuna, the veterans truly enjoy the time spent with one another sharing stories, experiences, and even struggles.
“There is an expedited bonding process that takes place between veterans when put in situations like this and often times it can turn out to be a strong and lasting bond,” Darroch said. He noted that unfamiliar places can often cause those struggling with PTSD to remain on edge and overly alert, but those feelings quickly dissipated at Silver King Lodge, allowing him to enjoy his time there.
“I felt very relaxed, calm, and completely able to enjoy the fishing with the company of my fellow veterans. It was an amazing feeling that I will fondly remember for the rest of my life,” Darroch said.
It is clear that the well-being of our country’s veterans is something important to Lizotte, and something he wants to have an even larger impact on. Recently, Fishing with Warriors has implemented a new wellness program for sponsored veterans that provides each participant with a one-hour yoga class each day, followed by a group session with a clinical psychologist to help discuss their lives as civilians, life with their families, and any PTSD struggles they may be facing, all done during their sponsored fishing getaway.
In addition to the fishing trips, the organization shares tickets to local sporting events such as the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, and even local PGA golf tournaments.
“We pass along tickets to these events so they [veterans] can take their families,” said Lizotte.
When asked how he knows these trips are making a difference in the lives of the veterans his organization sponsors, Lizotte answered, “You can see it in their face – you can hear it in their voice – they are refreshed.”
Lizotte’s efforts, and every member of Fishing with Warriors, work to give back to our country’s veterans and help them overcome their own challenges as they return to civilian life – all while creating life long memories, friendships, and perhaps, even catching a few trophy fish.
For more information on the Fishing with Warriors organization and its partners visit https://www.fishingwithwarriors.us/.