St. Croix


Feature Article: Mission Fish

Veterans, first responders and Gold Star family members get relief on the water with Mission F.I.S.H.

BY BOB SEMERAU/Western Outdoor News Staff WriterPublished: Aug 15, 2019

VENTURA — Sometimes we all feel helpless and uneasy. When those feelings become all consuming and begin to take a toll on an individual’s daily life, it can lead to horrific results. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, caused by traumatic events in the performance of one’s duties serving in the military or as a first responder, often goes untreated and unresolved. Gold-Star family members, those having lost loved ones through traumatic events while in service, can carry those scars as well.

presentatiionofcolorsPRESENTATION OF COLORS prior to a brief ceremony of remembrance for fallen heroes during a Mission FISH outing to Anacapa Island.

Even with traditional treatments, the symptoms may continue for years after an event, time of service or loss. Government programs offer little in the way of recreational therapy and when drugs and medical interaction do not work, fishing just might make a difference.

“We are here to offer a helping hand to anyone that is suffering,” says Mission FISH president Brian Barber, Sr. “Our goal is to not only help the returning and active duty veterans, but first responders and Gold-Star family members as well.”

“Operating as Mission FISH, Fishing, Interacting, Sharing and Healing, as our new title, we hope to reach out to those that are suffering and give some small amount of relief,” continued Barber. “With these changes we hope to reach more people in need and give them greater options for recovery.”

Recently the group organized a fishing outing aboard the 65-foot sportfisher Island Spirit out of Ventura Sportfishing as part of an ongoing outreach program. This reporter, along with WON associate Ted Reed, went along to observe and fish with the participants.

A DAY FISHING made a world of difference for Gold-Star Family Member, and now accomplished angler, Monica Yates. Like anyone else catching fish for the first time, Monica was all smiles.

After a smooth ride out to Anacapa Island, the assembled group let out lines to begin the fishing day. Some anglers had not been out in years and others had never fished the Channel Islands.

Finding several spots holding fish, Captain Sonny Haendiges set up drifts best suited for the conditions. Gold-Star family member Monica Yates was first to land a fish for the boat and she could not have been more thrilled. Constantly working the rail like a pro, the first timer repeatedly brought fish over the rails, enough to get a limit of rockfish, laughing and cheering for every fish.

As the boat made its moves around Anacapa, time came for a ceremonial moment in honor of those service members that have been lost.

Flags of the various organizations represented were distributed and assembled at the stern while observing a minute of silence in remembrance of those who were lost.

Hazel Rodriguez, an accomplished Marine Corps veteran, had a difficult time getting started but soon was catching fish along with the rest of the group. Hazel showed special mettle by carrying the Marine Corps colors during the ceremony aboard Island Spirit.

marinecorpsvetMARINE CORPS VET Hazel Rodriguez got the hang of catching fish and hung a few blue bass for her time at sea aboard Island Spirit.

Words from Mission FISH President Barber expressed the feelings of gratitude held by all in attendance.

Barber is himself a resilient survivor of PTSD, the result of his years of Military Service in the Marine Corps. The statistics are staggering; 22 veterans commit suicide each day and somewhere between 11 and 20 percent of veterans suffer from PTSD upon return to civilian life.

Mission FISH exists to help those in need by offering a free day of fishing, combined with camaraderie and referral services.

Daniel Gonzalez, 18years as a first responder fire fighter at Naval Base Ventura County, was all smiles when he pulled in a legal-sized halibut toward the end of the day's fishing.

The experience aboard Island Spirit shows how just getting out on the water and catching a few fish can be a renewal. All of the day’s expenses are paid by Mission FISH and the need for a fishing license is waived by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for the organization’s outing participants.

Other fishing outreach programs are slated for this year, including the multi-boat Operation Anacapa scheduled for Sept. 15 and a two-boat trip scheduled for Nov. 10.

“We would like to express our gratitude to our volunteers and to the donors that make our work possible,” says Mission FISH President Barber. “But it is the veterans, first responders, gold-star family members and national heroes reaching out to accept our helping hand that makes it all worth doing. We are here for them and will be for years to come,” concluded Barber.

CONTACT: Mission FISH: Fishing, Interacting, Sharing and Healing; Brian Barber Sr. President; P.O. Box 51025, Oxnard, Ca 93030; 805-827-9567

LARGER-MODEL HALIBUT for first responder, Daniel Ramirez, left, accompanied by Captain Sonny Haendiges, right, and shown by Island Spirit deckhand.

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