A good student, Pete Paskewicz graduated third in his class with aspirations to continue onto college. Unfortunately with the expense of enrolling and lack of guidance, his focus changed. He began working as an assistant pro at a golf course learning the game.
“A few years had gone by after high school and I realized working wasn’t satisfying for me.”
A man that made an incredible impression upon Pete filled his thoughts changing his line of thinking.
“I had always remembered a man in my life that was a Marine and every time he came around he was always sharp, always had everything perfect. It was at that time in my life that I said, ‘you know what I want to be like that.’”
When Pete saw “U.S. Declared War on Iraq,” in the newspaper, he said goodbye to his boss and enlisted in the United States Marines.
“I just wanted to go and support my country and my brothers that were getting ready to go over there.”
Participation in a training exercise, running across roof tops and buildings, left Pete injured. He had shattered his hip and broke a piece of his vertebrae in his back.
“I happened to go across a log and slipped right off. It was about a 15-foot fall. Boot slipped out from underneath me.”
After his injury he became a payroll clerk.
“I kept everyone paid. I had guys over in Iraq who were losing their trucks, house and not being able to pay bills. There was a piece of paper they filled out where the government would give them half of their pay, so they could catch up. So I turned my whole unit onto that. I helped them keep their trucks and house.”
That was how Pete continued to support his guys overseas – through financial means.
In 1995, he decided to use his VA benefits and attended Shippensburg University for a teaching degree. The path soon changed after his advisor told him “no one is going to hire you. You are never going to grow like you think you are going to grow in this field.”
The advice changed Pete’s direction. He decided to pursue a history major.
During his schooling, he began having marriage problems because his wife thought he was failing. Pete soon thereafter became a single father of three children.
Eleven years later he met a woman who he ended up marrying. This woman transformed his life by providing him encouragement, as well as never leaving his side.
“She made me more positive. She told me I could do it. She looked past my disabilities. She was always supportive on my bad days.”
After his life started taking a turn for the better, Pete sustained another injury to his lower back, which resulted in 100 percent disability.
“She never allowed me to get depressed, get down and always encouraged me to continue to keep going for myself, my family and my children. I’m very thankful for people like that in this world that can see the goodness of other people and bring it out of them.”
In 2013, he was introduced to WWA after visiting a local bait shop when the founder was also in the store. At the time he learned about the organization, he was taking 180 milligrams of morphine a day for pain, as well as muscle relaxers and other medications.
“I hadn’t been fishing, or getting out of the house and doing anything in society, like contributing. I felt that I was present. Looking back on it I know I wasn’t fully present with everyone I was with because of the morphine and the pain.”
He found a civilian doctor, Dr. Frey, in Cape Coral that changed his life. After the doctor completed a back procedure, Pete felt completely transformed because his body felt good for the first time in years.
Shortly after that, Pete and his wife were invited to a Warrior & Caregiver Retreat, which he agreed to attend because he was feeling so well.
“I showed up at the captain’s meeting the night before and met some really nice veterans. I felt very comfortable and it felt good to be out again in public and be with people similar to myself. I got to see other veterans, similar families as mine and similar problems as mine.”
On the second cast, the following day, Pete caught a trout, deeming the day a complete success.
While Pete was fishing, his wife was enjoying a day of pampering at Spa 33.
The day was a turning point for the couple.
“That afternoon after we got back together, I see my wife glowing. She was beautiful again with a smile again. She felt good. She felt happy. I felt good. I felt happy.”
“Through the Wounded Warrior Anglers, we felt that bond that this is what we were supposed to feel like together. That day was a special day in our life. A transforming day because that is when it all clicked with me. Hey, I can be with people that understand me.”
When Pete is struggling with PTSD he turns to fishing and wood carving.
“When I need to fix everything and get back to normal, I rely on fishing and that is why the Wounded Warrior Anglers fits me perfectly. It’s a veteran’s organization that helps a veteran like me. It gives me an outlet to be with other veterans and feel safe.”
Since Pete joined the organization 2 ½ years ago, he has become a changed man, a positive man, a man of growth who wants to help as many as he can.
“At the end of the day after fishing, all my problems feel better without medication and it kept me out of possible harm.”
Photograph courtesy of Dorene Lowe Photography – a Southwest Florida photographer out of Punta Gorda, Florida. To view more of her photographs, visit https://www.facebook.com/dorenelowephotography, or to schedule a session, call (941) 467-5015.
Article written by Meghan McCoy, Wounded Warrior Anglers media director.