This week my 83 year old Navy Veteran Dad made what is likely his last visit to our area so that we could do three days of fishing. The drive from Young Harris Georgia takes a toll on him and has become more and more difficult as he continues to age. Long before he was my Dad, he served in the Navy as a ship Quartermaster. When he and my Mother first met, they had both been divorced, with each having 2 children of their own. While he is not my biological father, he became the Dad that every boy wishes he could have. He adopted my brother and I at a very young age, but I still remember going into the attorneys office in Pascagoula Mississippi and being asked if I wanted him to be my Dad. He loved my Mother as a husband should and remained married to her for just shy of 49 years until she lost her battle to ovarian cancer. While married, they added 2 more children to the family, with each of us moving to different areas of the nation as we embraced adulthood.
Knowing this visit would likely be his last, I cleared my calendar in an effort to provide the best opportunity for him to catch some inshore fish. Due to a near death illness and ongoing heart conditions, I knew the time on the water would be difficult for him. I expected 2 to 3 hours of fishing was about all that he would want to go out for. However, exhausted as he was, he stayed out about 6 to 8 hours each day. We fished in Savannah on Day 1 and caught a number of puppy drum and trout. Even though the reds were small, they didn't fail to entertain. On Day 2, we used our South Carolina licenses and launched out of Beaufort. Again, we caught a number of assorted small fish and a few trout, getting drenched by a storm before relocating to try one more area. On Day 3, one of my brothers joined us as we launched out of Kilkenny Marina near Richmond Hill. This day would provide far less than the other days with only 1 fish that we could keep. However, I managed to latch on to a Bull Red (32") just as the Georgia Wildlife Ranger motored over to our boat. He was polite enough to keep his distance until we landed the fish and released it to fight another day. He introduced himself as Barry and did a quick check of our safety gear and licenses before wishing us a continued safe voyage.
My dad is an old school military man that does not believe the government should pay for his loss of hearing, even though he was exposed unprotected to the cannons firing as he manned the crow's nest of the ship. He's never visited the VA for follow-on care and continues to seek medical attention by using insurance that carried over from my Mother's medical plan. His belief in God is strong and he has what has become a very rare set of principles. He believes a man's word is his bond and a man without integrity isn't much of a man at all. At 83 years old, he still carries his Bible and his gun, while supporting the Constitution and promoting Christianity. After all, the constitution was written based on Christian morals, even when many parts of it were written by men that did not hold to religious ideals. Even the founding fathers at that time knew the difference between right and wrong, and they knew what it would take for our nation to survive.
Although my dad and I may never get the opportunity to fish salt water again, I intend to take a boat next time I visit him and get him out on Lake Chatuge. My fondest memories are the times we spent on the water at Lake Tobesofkee near Macon Georgia where we would enjoy fishing, water skiing and picnics with the family. He proved a simple life was the best kind of life and showed how important it is to spend time with your family. In today's world, we often find ourselves too busy with work or too overwhelmed with issues that may have carried over from our military service. It's in this time that we need to slow the pace and take time for our families and ourselves. Let Casting for a Cause help you and your family get out on the water and make a few memories of your own. After all, we are brothers and sisters bound by our military service, providing a level of support that can only be forged, not purchased.