‘A transforming day’

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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.

‘The strongest fiber of our nation’

Wounded Warrior Anglers of America (WWA) treated some of its warriors and caregivers to a weekend of relaxation and pampering Friday, Sept. 24, through Sunday, Sept. 26 as part of its Warrior & Caregiver Retreat program.

WWA-Caretakers-Retreat-071-copy-2The warriors received a rod and reel combo at a special ceremony held during a captain’s dinner at the Olde Fish House Marina in Matlacha. The fishing rods were used the following day while they spent many hours out on the water fishing.

Their wives and caregivers spent the day at Spa 33, a business that closes its doors for the day, in Matlacha where they were treated to mimosas, chocolates, massages, facials, hair and make-up.

The day of pampering is held in honor of our caregivers because they are “the strongest fiber of our nation,” said Judy Souders, vice president of WWA.

Alicia Beesting

Alicia married Danny 13 years ago and now has three beautiful children – an 11, 9 and 5 year old with her husband who she met in high school.

The life of the Beesting’s forever changed when Danny enlisted and dedicated almost 10 years to the United States Air Force.

In 2004, Danny deployed to Iraq for six months leaving behind his wife and then 8-month old child.

“He came home. He was okay. Not 100 percent, but okay,” Alicia said after her husband returned from his first deployment.

The deployment was hard for Alicia who was in Alaska at the time, even with a great support group of other military wives.

Their daily lives were normal until 2009 . . . their family had grown and Danny crossed trained into intelligence.

Danny did aerial surveillance on the Reaper for three years. During this time, Alicia began seeing some major changes in the man she loves.

“The three years when he was on the Reaper was the hardest because we had three kids and he was never home,” she said. “They operated the drone stateside, but the drone was in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or wherever they were. I think that is what hit him the worst because I think even though it wasn’t boots on the ground over there, his state-of-mind was over there.”

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Alicia watched her husband remain in war mode 24-hours a day, seven-days a week for three years. With Danny being on flying status, his shifts were sometimes put on hold for 12-hours if there was a sandstorm.

“I was a single mom for pretty much three years with having him home one-day a week,” she said of him returning to do laundry “We didn’t live on base. Base was 40-miles north.”

Alicia kept in touch with the other Air Force wives, but often times they all had their own lives and children to care for. She said although they tried to find as much time as they could to gather, it was not the same kind of support she received while living on base.

The only way Alicia was able to cope while her husband was in the service, was to live without him.

“You learn to have them gone,” she said. “You learn to live independent. You learn to live your own life.”

Four years ago Danny retired from the service, which was a hard transition for the entire family due to the new adjustments that took shape.

“They are not the person you married. But he is still the man you married and he will never be the same person you married,” she said. “You are learning to live with him again and learning to be married again. You are learning a new person, their likes and dislikes and what sets them off.”

Alicia soon learned that veterans do not like to talk and share their experiences. She remained persistent and told her husband he had a problem, which resulted in the response “you are my wife; I am supposed to protect you.”

Danny tried pushing his wife away, but Alicia remained strong and told her husband she was not going anywhere. That unconditional, pure love led her husband to doing cognitive PTSD therapy as an outpatient with the VA. The therapy has helped her husband tremendously.

“He is never going to be the man I married. So it is just learning the new things about him. Learning to deal with his issues and how to balance everything together,” Alicia said.

With almost 10 years in the service, Alicia explained her husband to be “a hot mess” with his multiple injuries ranging from metal screws in his feet, torn muscles on his spine and coping with PTSD.

Those injuries have resulted in Alicia taking on the job as a full-time caregiver, while still raising their three children and remaining all of their support system.

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“My five year doesn’t know what it was like before daddy was broken,” Alicia said. “He doesn’t understand. For him daddy is broken and it is okay.”

Her girls, on the other hand, struggle with their father being hurt and away from home.

“They remember what it was like to have dad home . . . to wonder when dad is coming home,” Alicia said through tears. “My oldest, when she was in kindergarten they had daddy day at school. She started crying and started saying why isn’t my daddy at home? It’s hard. They still don’t understand.”

Her middle child wants her dad back, not “her broken dad.”

The retreat did wonders for the Beesting couple.

“It’s nice to be able to get out together. We don’t do very much things together,” Alicia said. “Even with him fishing, being out on the water with the guys . . . it’s healing for him and it’s healing for me knowing that he’s out there talking. It could be about football, I don’t care, but he is out of the house.”

A day of pampering gave Alicia the energy to tackle another week – another week taking care of her children and husband.

“ . . . knowing that I’m doing a good job. It’s easy to give up sometimes,” she said.

Although she loved being pampered, the retreat meant so much more to the mother and wife of three. The day meant that her husband, who now owns a fishing rod from the retreat, can spend time with his children fishing.

“He is new to fishing, but it’s very therapeutic for him,” Alicia said. “I’m excited for him to learn new things and just to be out there more . . . to be himself. It is something that he can share with the kids. It is something that they can do together. That means the world.”

Kristi Milligan

It was not until Kristi married her husband Patrick that she began to form an understanding of the military.

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“Before I met him I never had much of a military background,” she said. “He has completely changed; I shouldn’t even say changed how I thought because I really never thought about it. If you’re not exposed to it you really don’t think about it. But, now with him and the exposure and knowing what these families go through and have to deal with and the struggles, we try to give back what we can.”

Kristi met Patrick through Match.com two or three years after he was out of the service. Within five months the couple was engaged.

Since they grew to know each other after Patrick’s days in the service, Kristi said she does not know much, but that he was in combat and had to fire a gun.

“I never saw what he went through, or that side of him,” she said.

Patrick dedicated 12 years to the United States Army. For the most part Patrick left the service with very minimal injuries. Kristi said her husband is completely deaf in his left ear and has battled severe migraines, some so debilitating they would knock him out for three or four days at a time.

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He had brain surgery for a benign cyst over his left ear in 2001, which has helped the migraines.

Kristi said she does not consider herself a caregiver because her husband is very functional, able to work, and does whatever his heart desires. The only obstacle Patrick faces are the migraines that come every once in a while.

“ . . . And it’s not even for me,” she said while tears streamed down her face of the retreat. “Knowing what you guys do for them . . . it’s nice to know there are organizations out there.”

Kristi reiterated that the spa day was not only very relaxing, but comforting knowing that WWA touches the lives of veterans and their caregivers.

Amanda Crane

On Oct. 16, Amanda married her husband Tyler, eight years ago after meeting him through mutual friends in a parking lot while he was in ranger school. Aug. 24, marked a year since Tyler’s left the Army.

Amanda said that first year after getting out of the service was the hardest because he no longer had the job that he has had forever. Tyler, who served his country for nine years, was deployed twice.

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“It was difficult because I didn’t know what the military was at all,” Amanda said of her husband’s deployment.

Tyler’s first deployment lasted for a year and the second only five months due to an injury the second week he was gone. Those injuries – a fused back and a good amount of nerve damage.

She found some comfort with confiding in her friends and other military wives while the distance separated them. Although Amanda now lives close to her family, she still faces some challenges because not everyone understands why they cannot go certain places and do certain things.

Now that Tyler is home full-time he is faced with new challenges – playing with their two girls, now 7 and a 3-years old.

“He can’t play with them like he wants to because of his back,” she said. “He is usually in pain.”

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With his injuries, Amanda has become his caregiver, scheduling his appointments and whatever else he may need.

The retreat was beneficial for the Crane family because it provided a break from everyday life. The day also made them focus on taking care of themselves while being surrounded by others who have gone through the same thing.

“That is why fishing is his go to because he can mellow out,” Amanda said of her husband spending the day fishing during the retreat.

The day at the spa was a treat for Amanda, one that she enjoyed thoroughly.

Dana Pedigo

Dana, who met her husband Shawn in middle school, tied the knot almost nine years ago. The couple became acquainted again after Shawn’s mother visited her grandmother’s house with his email address.

“It was cute,” she said of the gesture. “He was home on leave (from Iraq) and we hung out the whole time he was on leave.”

When he returned from Iraq, Dana joined Shawn in Kentucky and got married a month later. The couple now has three young children.

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Shawn, who was in the Army for nine years, suffers from PTSD, traumatic brain injury, migraines and sleep apnea. Dana said while her husband was deployed, he was knocked unconscious briefly due to a car next to him containing an IED that went off.

“Everyone in the truck had been thrown out,” she said. “Ever since then he has had migraines. Sometimes he can’t get out of bed.”

Since her husband has returned, Dana has become his full-time caregiver.

“It’s extremely hard,” she said of the role. “It’s a learning process because you have to deal with your own things on top of trying to shield your children from seeing some of his issues.”

Dana and Shawn are also full-time students, which throws another challenge into the mix.

“There is a lot of stress in our lives,” she said.

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Dana is pursuing a science degree while her husband is still contemplating the exact direction he wants to take.

“He wants to be a cop,” she said. “His counselor said she has a lot of clients that are cops, or firemen, because they are so used to having the adrenaline from being in war. Their bodies are accustomed to it, so when they go back to real life they seek out the adrenaline.”

The day of relaxation was exactly what the couple needed.

“I’m really appreciative of it,” Dana said of the relaxation and quietness she experienced that Saturday.

She said while sipping on a mimosa that the massage was among the most relaxing of all the services she had at the spa.

WWA-Caretakers-Retreat-058-copy-2   Wounded Warrior Anglers is a nonprofit organization that helps rehabilitate the mind, body and soul of all service members who have been injured, wounded, or disabled in the line of duty no matter what their era of service. The organization also has a mission to actively support the wounded warrior’s caregiver and their immediate family.

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All photographs are 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.

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Article written by Meghan McCoy, Wounded Warrior Anglers media director.

‘It’s a great way to give back’

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The Laishley Park Municipal Marina Community Room in Punta Gorda was transformed with rows of tables, as warriors were given the opportunity to learn a new skill – rod building.

Dan Watson
Dan Watson

“I think it’s fantastic,” Dan Watson, a member of Mosquito Creek Rod Crafters, said of the workshop. “The people putting it on are special people. I’m honored to be a part of it.”

Wounded Warrior Anglers (WWA) held a rod building workshop Sept. 17, through Sept. 20 in partnership with American Tackle Company International. The two full days of rod building concluded with a half-day on the water fishing using the newly constructed rods.

“There is nothing more exciting than catching a fish on the rod you built,” Don Morse, with American Tackle, said.

Don Morse
Don Morse

The nonprofit organization, Wounded Warrior Anglers, offered the first rod building workshop for its warriors earlier this year in Oviedo, Florida. Since it was a huge success, the four-day workshop has been added to the many programs the organization offers for its warriors.

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Morse said the company wants to promote rod building in any way they can. When the opportunity to work with Wounded Warrior Anglers presented itself, he said there was no better group of people to share the craft with.

“I feel a strong connection with these guys,” Morse said of the warriors he has worked with.

Although Mike Kosiba has been fixing rods since the 1960s, he found a passion in 1999 when he began creating custom fishing rods. The seasoned rod builder spent time with 10 Wounded Warrior Anglers sharing secrets of his craft.

Kosiba was joined by four other instructors, all members of the group Mosquito Creek Rod Crafters.

Mike Kosiba
Mike Kosiba

The process of creating a custom rod takes on many steps, all of which stem from selecting a blank depending on the type of fishing one wants to do. The next step, Kosiba said is deciding the dimensions of the rod to best fit an individual’s body type, followed by choosing the rod’s handle.

Guides were then placed on the rod depending where the blank flexes to ensure its efficiency. The guides are then wrapped with thread before an epoxy finish is placed on top.

The craft of rod building, Morse said is both artistic and useful.

“You are crafting something from scratch that is useWWA-Tourney-and-Rods-289-copy-2able,” he said. “Twenty years ago I started building rods. The sky is the limit on things you can use.”

The warriors were carefully walked through the process step-by-step, so they could create a rod they were proud of, a rod they could put to the test out on the water.

“It’s something they can do,” Kosiba said, adding that the warriors can pursue it as much or little as possible.

Tony DelleDonne
Tony DelleDonne

This is the second workshop for Wounded Warrior Anglers’ Tony DelleDonne. “I did a dragon scale on this one.” The style used dry wall tape, and metallic thread.

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The workshop was very relaxing for DelleDonne as he continued to perfect his new skill.

“You have to concentrate,” he said. “You get away for a while, while working at it.”

The 21 year Navy veteran, who retired in 2006, joined WWA a year ago after meeting founders David and Judy Souders, at the Fort Myers Boat Show.

“I like it. It’s very good,” DelleDonne said about joining WWA. “It’s veteran focused (and you) hook up with other vets and you fish and you’re good.”

The workshop was also eye opening for the instructors.

The workshops helped Jr Alvey slow down and think about what kind of impact teaching a new skill has for the warriors.

“It’s a great way to give back,” he said.

Jr Alvey
Jr Alvey

Alvey, who was also a part of the first rod building workshop, said he hopes to spend more time with the warriors in order to get to know them better.

“The guys are invited anytime to visit and get one-on-one (instruction). We are just a phone call away,” he said.

The passion for many of the instructors formed many years ago.

Alvey fell in love with rod building eight years ago. Over those years he has found his signature look – incorporating cork into the rod design.

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“I cut them up and make different sizes,” he said before gluing them back together. “It helps keep my mind busy.”

For Kosiba, rod building continues because it’s all about “building the perfect rod,” which has yet been accomplished. A perfect rod, he said would consist of every joint fitting perfectly with flawless, straight guides.

Watson said he became involved with the group Mosquito Creek Rod Crafters 15 years ago. He said the group gathers once a month in the Orlando area.

“I like the people. It’s a great bunch of people,” Watson said of Mosquito Creek Rod Crafters.

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Wounded Warrior Anglers is a nonprofit organization that helps rehabilitate the mind, body and soul of all service members who have been injured, wounded, or disabled in the line of duty no matter what their era of service. The organization also has a mission to actively support the wounded warrior’s caregiver and their immediate family.

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All photographs are 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.

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Article written by Meghan McCoy, Wounded Warrior Anglers media director.

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