US Veterans now have the ability to upgrade while in open water.
The non-profit organization Fishing for the Mission 22 uses fishing programs in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, as a mode of therapy for military veterinarians.
The organization’s founder, Harold Skelton, told Fox News Digital in an on-camera interview that the nonprofit is working to raise awareness about the horrifying statistic of 22 veterans who kill themselves every day. – while using a therapeutic approach to help heal and help those who are still struggling.
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Skelton, a U.S. Air Force veteran himself, decided to start Fishing for the Mission after “years of battling” depression and PTSD and even a suicide attempt.
“When I had my first child in 2016, I found comfort in life and started fishing,” he said. “I found fishing to be a therapeutic experience for me because it took my mind off it for a while.”
After becoming a single father in 2021, Skelton moved to Cape Cod to launch his nonprofit the following year.
Fishing for the Mission offers several levels of support for veterans through fishing, starting with helping them obtain fishing licenses and going through day charters.
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Skelton has also set up a program for veterans to stay in touch with each other after fishing trips, which he hopes will soon be expanded into an app.
“I noticed through the texts of the group, that a lot of these guys are considering continuing to fish,” he said. “So we’ll connect them.”
Fishing for the Mission offers several levels of support for American veterans.
At the highest level, the organization offers a “professional mentorship refresher” called Operation Tackle 22, which allows veterans to accumulate up to 300 hours of boat training over the course of a summer.
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Veterans can then use this training to re-enter the workforce, Skelton explained.
“We train them to do something they love, which is fishing,” he said.
“And if they don’t want to get into fishing, there are 100 other jobs in the boating industry that you can actually do once you get your license.”
Being on the water in itself can be a “calming experience” for veterans looking for a new job without the hustle and bustle, Skelton noted.
“It’s a lot of money, a great career and you’re kind of alone in the waterway,” he said.
“We train them to do something they love, which is fishing. And if they don’t want to go into fishing, there are 100 other jobs in boating.”
The non-profit organization has planned extensive fishing trips for veterans enrolled in the program, including nightly retreats to fish for big catches like marlin, bigeye tuna and yellowfin tuna.
“It should be a great experience for the guys as they kind of wrap up the summer and get ready to go to captains school,” Skelton said.
The growing demand for mental health support from veterans has driven the cause, Skelton reiterated.
“Operation Tackle 22 is all about the struggle of veterans – struggling to stay employed or maybe having substance abuse issues or just struggling, in general, to reintegrate into society,” he said. .
“It’s important for organizations to give veterans some meaningful opportunities and maybe retrain them into something they love,” he continued.
“Fishing for the Mission is bringing people together in groups and telling them they are not alone.”
“This fishing industry is huge, and you can get by just fine.”
Skelton described being on the water as a “calm and quiet” experience that gets “even better” when like-minded friends are out on the trip.
After going on fishing trips together, veterans said that for the first time in years they could hang out with a group of people who had their backs, Skelton said.
“It was a bit like a haven of peace,” he added.
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“Fishing sparks conversation. You’re outside in the sun and there are all kinds of health benefits…and it takes your mind off things,” he continued. “I think that’s the most important thing.”
Fishing for the Mission 22 hosts fundraising events throughout the year to pay for these fishing trips.
“We put our money back into what we say we do,” Skelton said.
“And it’s going very well,” he added. He said the veterans “are really grateful.”
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As the founder of Fishing for the Mission, Skelton said his primary mission was to eradicate veteran suicide.
“I’m sick of hearing about the suicide rate of veterans,” he said. “Fishing for the Mission is bringing people together in groups and telling them they are not alone.”
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Anyone interested in getting involved or learning more can visit fishingforthemission22.org for more details.