Feature Article: Veterans Fish

Anglers Anonymous Ventura Coast becomes Mission F.I.S.H. to offer healing on the water

BY BOB SEMERAU/WON Staff WriterPublished: Dec 26, 2018

OXNARD —The numbers are staggering. Veterans coming home with physical wounds that make daily life difficult and those that have hidden scars, like PTSD, creating havoc where joy should be. An incredible 22 veterans take their own lives each day.

“We are here to offer a helping hand to anyone that is suffering,” says former Anglers Anonymous of Ventura Coast (AAVC) president Brian Barber, Sr. “Our goal is to not only help the returning and active duty veterans, but Gold-Star family members, and first responders as well.”

blindveteransBLIND VETERANS CAME to get out and fish with a few caretakers from the Long Beach Veterans Administration.

Recently, the organization has re-invented itself and come out with Mission F.I.S.H. as its new title, one that allows a broader scope of healing.

“With these changes we hope to reach more people in need and give them greater options for recovery,” says organization president, Barber.

This past year the group, entirely comprised of volunteer staff, held Operation Anacapa once again. The result had 122 veterans out for a day of fantastic ocean fishing on three boats departing from Channel Islands Sportfishing, Oxnard. The event was followed by a tri-tip BBQ sponsored by the Downtown Ventura Lions Club and a raffle of loads of swag along with goodie boxes provided by Operation Gratitude.

The new direction will have Mission F.I.S.H. team up with a range of like-minded groups to give a more personalized solution for those traumatized following service to the country and service to the public at large.

The idea to reach out to first responders came about after the recent fires and devasting shooting within Ventura county. The generous support of people in the community, and donations from businesses that care about those in service and military veterans, makes an organization like this possible.

The acronym F.I.S.H. represents the group’s origins within the waters of Southern California and a strong desire to give back by providing practical help to others.

kristopherhemiKRISTOPHER HEMI LANED this nice whitefish out at Anacapa.

F: Fishing, of course. The roots of the organization are in the water. Organization president Barber, like most of the board of Mission F.I.S.H., is a veteran that came home needing relief and finding it through fishing experiences. Outings on both salt and fresh water will be available through the group.

“Fishing forces people to take a breath and slow down for a bit, setting aside their problems. That momentary break gives them a chance to relax and enjoy the moment, seeing the possibilities for a less stress-filled life,” Barber explained.

I: Interacting with others. Many times, those in need become compartmentalized and isolated. Their darkness becomes all they ever know. “By getting a few people together to fish and exchange experiences healing can begin,” says Barber.

S: Sharing the story. Not only talking about what issues they may have but hearing what skills others may have developed to work through those issues and survive, can be the greatest part of getting out and fishing together.

H: Healing, at last. Finding a way out of the darkness through comradery and support of those that have been there makes all the difference. The friendships and contacts that come from a day on the water can last a lifetime and give long-standing results leading toward a healthy and productive life for those in need.

James Godsey, treasurer of the organization, further explained those benefits: “Often veterans returning from deployment, Gold-Star family members, or first responders, find themselves lost and feeling left out of society. When they try to go on with their lives, those feelings can be overwhelming. Both President Barber and I have been through that same dark time and felt the pressures of adjusting to this new life.”

The decision to re-configure the local organization and help vets and others has gone a long way toward their own recovery and growth. The two men are disabled Marine Corp veterans, still healing their wounds, both physical and hidden.

This past September had old friends and new meet up for the Operation Anacapa, looking forward to another exciting day on the water.

treefishfordustinTREEFISH FOR DUSTIN Loftice taken while fishing with 2018 Operation Anacapa.

Representing Turner’s Outdoorsman, local Oxnard Store Manager, Mike Armenta, brought along matched sets of rod and reels for anglers to use in support of the program.

Vietnam vet, Frank Applegate and his service dog, Helen, come out each year and find some great times aboard the boats. Local veteran, William Smith, participated in Operation Anacapa for his second time and took home a bag of rockfish fillets for his day at the islands.

A veteran on 23 years of service, Irma Proffitt, with pal, Lucy, came out for the fishing trip with the group at Channel Islands Sportfishing. Proffitt, as an Army veteran returned after 3-tours in Iraq, now wheelchair bound, loves to get out amongst the troops and enjoys sharing the day.

Once again, a special flag was raffled off at the end of the day. Local artist and a disabled veteran himself, Eric Scarlett donated a custom-built U.S. flag done in heavy gauge metal, cut by hand, and painted in brilliant automotive lacquer paint, stenciled with commemorative Operation Anacapa emblazoned on the face.

“It’s great to see everyone here, sharing a moment and spending some time just having fun,” said Mission F.I.S.H. President Barber, while the group enjoyed the food and prizes.

Everyone has bouts with depression and anxiety at times, but veterans, Gold-Star Family members, and first responders, can now find new, exciting options through Mission F.I.S.H.

“We’ve added alliances with several organizations, and we can now help through fresh water fishing, our Operation Anacapa trips each year, and we even have a chance for the Gold-Star Family children to get out and fish with Reel Guppy Outdoors,” President Barber said with a smile.

“Our message is simple: we want people to know that if you find yourself falling apart and in darkness as a result of your service or the service of your family member, we are here to help shed some light, and to work to make you whole again, through experiences on the water,” concluded Barber.


Mission F.I.S.H,, Brian Barber, Sr. (805) 827-9567

Anglers Anonymous of America, Dustin Loftice. (972) 333-1380,

Fishin’ Buddies for Veterans, Kevin Massey, (909) 631-7922

Reel Guppy Outdoors, Kevin Brannon, (805) 420-7335

Channel Islands Sportfishing, (805) 382-1612

harryfrancowhoHARRY FRANCO, WHO drives the killer 4X4 shown here, gives back with his program, Hidden Wounds Off Road, giving some very exciting opportunities for vets and others to get out into the wild aboard his rig.

artistandveteranARTIST AND VETERAN, Eric Scarlett, left, donated this work of art done up in distressed steel and automotive finish, received by organization President Brian Barber and his daughter, Kobianna, right.

LIKE OLD FRIENDS, Vietnam veteran, William Smith, right shakes hands with friend Gary Simpson, left, met during the day on the water with Operation Anacapa.

23-YEAR VETERAN E-6, Irma Proffitt, with pal, Lucy, came out for the fishing trip with the group at Channel Islands Sportfishing.

turnersoutdoorsmanoxnardTURNER’S OUTDOORSMAN OXNARD store manager, Mike Armenta, left showed up with matched rod and reel sets for participants to use while fishing Operation Anacapa. Volunteers, Jodi McGregor, center and John Csorba, right, helped with all the gear.

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