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This special annual event brought 30 wounded and disabled veterans together for 3 days of angling, adventure, and camaraderie in beautiful Islamorada and Everglades National Park.  PHWFF  Program Lead, Col. Anthony Fernandez III USMC (Ret), recounts the “3rd Annual Backcountry Purple Heart/Disabled Veterans Slam III” below: 

The PHWFF-South Florida Program in partnership with the Herman Lucerne Memorial Foundation and in cooperation with the U.S. Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment and Vantage Point Foundation conducted the “Backcountry Purple Heart/Disabled Veterans Slam III”, a two-day fishing venue during August 21-22, 2018 at Islamorada Florida in Everglades National Park, for thirty wounded and disabled veterans, in order to assist in their medical recovery and rehabilitation.

This was our 3rd annual signature event which not only brings wounded and disabled veterans together, but also advertises our program to potential area participants and sponsors.  For three days participants fished and enjoyed beautiful Islamorada and Everglades National Park with comrades.  The participants were paired up with local professional guides who treated them to an adventure gliding through skinny waters on shallow water skiffs, sight casting to every manner of species that inhabit the park, and explored the waters of the backcountry.  Bonds were formed amongst all, participants, volunteers, guides, and the park.  Everglades National Park has a special healing power that transports the participants to a quiet and serine world were their troubles are left far and away.  Every participants expressed their gratitude and desire to return to this magnificent ecosystem with their new found comrades. (You can view the event photos at the bottom of this post!)

The highlight, or measure of success for us was every time a participant made a statement such as “the best day of my life”, “this has changed my life”, “I am no longer that hermit living behind closed doors”, or “this is now my therapy”.

It was fitting to host our annual Backcountry Purple Heart Disabled Veteran’s Slam III in Islamorada Florida, gateway to Florida Bay and Everglades National Park these past three days.  As the residents of Islamorada continue to rebuild after the devastation of Hurricane Irma almost one year ago they took time from their reconstruction endeavors to welcome 30 of our wounded and disabled veterans into their home.  For three days everyone shared in the healing process.

We are proud and excited to have partnered with the Herman Lucerne Memorial Foundation this year.  The foundation is dedicated to the restoration and preservation of Everglades National Park which is essential to our program as we are unable to preform our mission without a healthy ecosystem.  This partnership also supports our goal of maintaining a viable and ongoing program in South Florida.

This event would not have been successful if it were not for those who stepped forward to make it a success with their time, talents, and compassion.  We wish to acknowledge just some who gave their selfless support.

The volunteers: Melissa Smith, Heather Utset, Kellie Trotta, Richard Trotta, Tim Daubert, Allison Montgomery Stattner, Chuck Yaiser, Tom Morgan, Tony Acosta, Mike Forster

The guides: Capt. Benny Blanco, Capt. Steve Friedman, Capt. Andrew Downs, Capt. Luke Krenik, Capt. Steven Tejera, Capt. Jason Sullivan, Capt. Ryan Booth, Capt. Lincoln Rodriguez, Capt. Ridge Murphy, Capt. Matt Bellinger, Capt. Randy Stallings, Capt. Carlos Jimenez, Capt. Dave Denkert, Capt. Jerry Perez, Capt. Mike Alfano, Capt. Justin Bachert, Capt. Brandon Lazio, Capt. Adam Denkert, Capt. Chris Molinaro, Capt. Nestor Alvisa, Capt. Kerry Wingo, Capt. Augie Moss, Capt. Eddie Yarborough, Capt. Andy Thompson, Capt. John West, Capt. Justin Price, Capt. Jeremy A Kiley, Capt. Jonathan Moss, Capt. Ryan Accursio, Capt. Alan Zaremba, Capt. Peter Miller and Capt. Rob Fordyce