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PHWFF South Florida Program Lead and Event Organizer, Col. Anthony Fernandez III USMC Ret, highlights this special annual event below.  Be sure to view the full photo gallery at the bottom of the post!

The Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing 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 IV” on August 12-14, 2019 at Islamorada, Florida.  This two day fishing event took place in Everglades National Park and hosted thirty wounded and disabled veterans in order to assist in their medical recovery and rehabilitation.

This was our 4th annual signature event which provides a venue to bring a large number of wounded/disabled veterans together to share in an experience which allows them to bond and support one another’s healing.  The event and location foster an environment of peaceful tranquility, and camaraderie as a catalyst for freedom to open up in conversation which they have held to closely with those who share a commonality. Set in beautiful Islamorada with the Florida Everglades as the backdrop, participants, volunteers, guides, and a community came together for three days to support those who have sacrificed.  

The two day event was filled with great fishing, camaraderie and healing.  The environment, community and our unique brand of healing was evident through testimonials we received:

“I don’t need this anymore, I am moving forward”, a young soldier said to an event volunteer as he handed him a Memory Bracelet of the soldier’s best friend and comrade who died fighting next to him.  He suffers from wounds received, PTSD, and survivors’ guilt. Letting go is the first major step.

A Marine suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD told the audience at the event farewell reception “I needed this.”

The successes of this event time and again proves it’s worth in supporting the recovery and rehabilitation of our wounded/disabled veterans and the positive effect it has upon their individual outlook to their futures. It was heart warming and exciting to see the participants bond with one another and speak of fish tales over the course of the event. This event has also supported our efforts to spread awareness of the program, recruitment of new participants and volunteers, donor sponsorship, corporate and community support, and allows for a continued viable and sustainable program.

We are proud and excited to have partnered with the Herman Lucerne Memorial Foundation.  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, along with our partner non-profit organization the Herman Lucerne Memorial Foundation, wish to acknowledge just some who gave their selfless support.

Special Thanks:

The Program Volunteers: Melissa Fernandez, Heather Utset, Col. James T. Reynolds USMC (Ret.), Sgt. Tim Daubert USMC (Ret.), Allison Montgomery Stattner, Pfc Chuck Yaiser USMC (Ret.), Tony Acosta, Ines Acosta, Bryan Swendell

The guides: Capt. JP Prieto , Capt. Randy Stallings , Capt. Ryan Booth , Capt. Vince Bini , Capt. Augie Moss , Capt. Steve Thomas , Capt. Carlos Jimenez , Capt. Kyle Kleppinger , Capt. Matt Bellinger , Capt. Andy Downs , Capt. Dave Denkert , Capt. Justin Bachert , Capt. Rainer Schael , Capt. Mike O’Dell , Capt. Carl Ball, Capt. Ryan Accursio , Capt. Jason Sullivan , Capt. Rob Munoz , Capt. Charles Hertel  , Capt. Steven Tejera , Capt. Luke Krenik , Capt. Benny Blanco 

The Sponsors: Elks Lodge 948 Miami (Gold Star Sponsor), Florida Power & Light Energy Company (Gold Star Sponsor), Miami-Dade County Military Affairs Board (Bronze Star Sponsor), Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida (Bronze Sponsor)

The Corporate/Community Supporters: We wish acknowledge our supporters who donated over $45,000.00 in-kind donations for this event

Islander Resort, Islamorada, FL, Hell’s Bay Boatworks, Captains for Clean Water, Yeti, Hoo-Rag, SeaDek, Mangrove Mike’s Café, Islamorada FL, Reel-Love