Proof it’s more than “just fishing”, this is how the pursuit of speckled trout reinvented the transition to civilian life for a combat veteran.
My name is Devin. I’m a former Marine, security contractor and combat veteran of the Iraq War.
I have not one, two, or three deployments overseas, but twenty.
Two-zero. Twenty. Spread out over ten years.
And when I tell people that (which is rare) I see a distinct shift in their demeanor.
Honestly, those times in Iraq were the best of my life. They were exciting and the challenge kept me coming back for more.
No, I do not believe I am worse off. Instead , I subscribe to General Mattis’ train-of-thought:
While victimhood in America is exalted I don’t think our veterans should join those ranks.
You’ve been told that you’re broken, that you’re damaged goods…there is also a post-traumatic growth. You come back from war stronger and more sure of who you are.
– General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, Secretary of the Department of Defense
I cannot agree more.
Being exposed to war before I was old enough to buy a beer was the catalyst to grow fast.
But, despite this growth, I’ve come to learn there were difficulties adjusting to normal life back home.
Spring of 2009 was the longest I had been home. I was between deployments and content to catch up with old friends.
But it was not as I expected.
I quickly became bored. There was nothing exciting or challenging to do.
Drinking and going out quickly lost its luster. I hated being hungover and I felt the crowd of high-school buddies I was hanging out with weren’t that entertaining.
These feelings were further solidified when I learned they were taking advantage of me while I was gone.
Yeah, I thought coming home was going to be great.
But instead it sucked. I grew to hate being home.
I felt like I was alone. I didn’t really connect with people. My experiences were so different from theirs. We had little in common.
It was as if I were deployed to my hometown. My house was the forward operating base and my real home was a dusty Conex box near the Tigris River.
I kinda just wanted to go back overseas and be with my real friends. But I was stuck like chuck in Slidell, Louisiana.
Not really sure if it was a good move or not, I dragged the old flatboat out, got the 2-stroke running and hit the water to go fishing.
It was the first time I had been fishing in years.
After landing a few speckled trout and a big bull red, I was hooked all over again.
The next morning I was back on the water, looking for trout. I didn’t return until the sun went down.
And then again. And again. And again. Always chasing the fish.
I eventually learned what I was really after. It was not the fish, but the challenge that kept me coming back for more.
Inshore fishing fulfilled me in a way other things could not.
I’m not denying PTSD. It does exist. I’ve seen it. It’s an ugly thing.
One of the best men I knew was found behind a dumpster. He died cold and alone.
I just told you PTSD is an ugly thing.
A lot of combat veterans end up sinking into depression, and I believe this is because they get “coolest thing I ever did” syndrome.
The meme is pretty accurate, and this “syndrome” isn’t exclusive to combat veterans.
It happened to astronauts, too.
Buzz Aldrin fell into a serious bout of depression and alcoholism following the Apollo moon landing.
After all, how could he possibly top going to the moon? Or relate to others who haven’t?
Years ago, I had the option to sink or swim.
Sinking meant falling into depression, ruining relationships and possibly suck-starting the business end of my Glock 23.
Swimming meant discovering something I could be on fire for, continuing to grow and giving something back, just as I did in the Marines.
I made the choice, and inshore fishing gave me the option.
I’m writing this so you know you also have that option.
If you’ve never caught a redfish, you should give it a try.
Tight lines, y’all.
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