BY BOB SEMERAU
OXNARD— Many times the people who have given so much seem to be all but forgotten. Supported by a group of dedicated volunteers, Mission F.I.S.H. works with veterans, active-duty military, first responders and Gold Star family members to complete their mission of helping those in need.
The simple act of offering a day out on the pristine waters of the Channel Islands, fishing and sharing time with others, has meant so much to those who serve.
Mission F.I.S.H. president, Brian Barber, Sr, a resilient survivor of PTSD himself, the result of his years of Military Service in the Marine Corps, understands the difficulties people go through when returning home.
“We are here to offer a helping hand to anyone that is suffering,” says Mission F.I.S.H. president Barber. “Our goal is to not only help the returning and active-duty veterans, but first responders, and Gold-Star family members as well. “Sometimes we all feel helpless and uneasy. When those feelings become all-consuming and begin to take a toll on an individual’s daily life it can lead to horrific results.”
The meaning of the acronym of the organization, F.I.S.H., tells the mission it was founded upon: Fishing, Interacting, Sharing and Healing. Operation Anacapa is about being on the water, catching fish, and sharing stories.
Since its inception in 2015, the group plans several trips each year, with Operation Anacapa, an all-expense paid fishing experience in early September, taking over 100-participants for a day of Fishing, Interacting, Sharing, and Healing, the F.I.S.H. in the organization’s name.
The most recent occasion for the event had 120-anglers and volunteers participate, loading up in the early morning hours to fish along the backside on Anacapa Island, one of the Channel Islands. The local Navy Federal Credit Union came out with coffee and breakfast treats to welcome anglers.
Three boats, operating out of Channel Islands Sportfishing Company, Oxnard (CISCOS), Speed Twin, Gentleman, and Aloha Spirit, departed the landing just after 7:00 a.m. for a great day of camaraderie and fishing for all.
Mike Armenta, manager of the Oxnard Turner’s Outdoorsman, came out for the event, bringing along hats and T-shirts for the group. Armenta and Turner’s Outdoorsman are both strong supporters of the Mission F.I.S.H. efforts, providing support for Mission F.I.S.H. anglers throughout the year.
“This is always an amazing opportunity for us to give back to those who serve,” explained Armenta in the pre-dawn darkness. “Besides, it’s just the right thing to do,” concluded the affable store manager.
Other sponsors include 187 Jigs, Something’s Fishy (a stink erasing spray that really works!), WormKing Swimbaits, Fishing Syndicate, and many others.
Several anglers make it out every year for Operation Anacapa. Others are new to the event and new to fishing.
Wounded Warriors Project outreach specialist, Wendy Rubio, came out with 14-lady-anglers, all very excited to get out for a day on the water.
“For these ladies it’s all about the connection,” smiled Rubio when the boats returned to CISCOS. “Each of them experiences something new on her journey of growth through fishing with Operation Anacapa.”
One Wounded Warrior Project participant, former Marine Military Police Sgt Elizabeth Arias, began her journey a short while ago after her service.
“Elizabeth started with us at a waterfowl hunt and is continuing with fishing and hunting on a regular basis. Tomorrow, she will be at a Wounded Warriors Project pheasant hunt,” says Rubio. Arias’ outdoor experiences have given her a new perspective, and now she includes her 10-year-old daughter, Natalia Thiemann, whenever Natalia can get away from school.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, caused by traumatic events in the performance of one’s duties serving in the military, or as a first responder, often goes untreated and unresolved. Gold-Star family members, those having lost loved ones through traumatic events while in service, can carry those scars as well.
The simple act of spending a day on the water, fishing and sharing with people of similar backgrounds and experiences can be enormously beneficial for those who suffer. Government programs offer little in the way of recreational therapy and when drugs and medical interaction do not work, fishing just might make a difference.
The boats worked the area around Anacapa Island, and at a set time all three boats paused in the action to honor those veterans who have given their full measure or have been lost to tragic suicide following their service.
At 11:11 a.m. the colors flew, and a moment of silence was observed. The time is representative of the 22-veterans of military service who commit suicide each day.
Nearly 20-percent of veterans suffer from PTSD upon return to civilian life. Mission F.I.S.H. hopes to alleviate some of that stress and give not only an outlet through fishing, but a year-round resource for help when needed most.
Anglers bagged plenty of fish while completing the Operation Anacapa mission, including loads of larger sized bocaccio, reds, rockfish, and sheephead. A few ling cod came over the rail with 19-year-old Donovan Erazo landing his first-ever ling cod, a nice prize at around 10-pounds.
Returning about 3:30 p.m. the anglers were met by flags waving in the afternoon breeze as they off-loaded from the boats next to CISCOS. In the park nearby volunteers, under the direction of Jessica Barber, had tables and chairs set out, and a raft of raffle prizes on display. The local Ventura Lions Club set up their mega-sized BBQ and gave everyone, participants and volunteers alike, a feast of grilled chicken with beans, macaroni salad, watermelon, and plenty of drinks.
Most everyone participating took home raffle prizes and goody boxes from sponsors and supporters alike.
“Our volunteers and donors work hard every day to make events like this possible,” says Mission F.I.S.H. President Barber. “We do it all for those who serve: the veterans, active duty, first responders, and Gold-Star family members. We are here for them and will be here with many more exciting trips in the years to come.”
Mission F.I.S.H. Fishing, Interacting, Sharing, and Healing
Brian Barber Sr. President