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Florida fishing tournaments forms forever friends

by Staff Sgt. Randy Redman
Thunderbolt editor

Members of the 6th Air Mobility Wing Honor Guard show off their trophies.

Photo by Staff Sgt. Randy Redman

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines camaraderie as: a spirit of friendly good-fellowship. But anyone who's been deployed for any amount of time can tell you that it's so much more. It means having someone to talk to when your family is a thousand miles away. It means someone cares about you whether they tell you or not. And sometimes it can even mean that someone would die for you.

Camaraderie doesn't just happen though; it's a relationship that must be fostered through experiences, struggles and maybe even an occasional beer. Fishing can be another great way to build friendships that can last a lifetime. So in the spirit of camaraderie, the 6th Air Mobility Wing Honor Guard joined other honor guard units from throughout the state Oct. 9 to compete in the third annual Honor Guard Fishing Tourney.

First Lt. Jay Caldwell, Master Sgt. Charles Greer, Staff Sgt. Carlos Berumen, Staff Sgt. Jazmin Rodriguez, Staff Sgt. Donnelle Starks, Senior Airman Stephen Costie, Senior Airman Joshua Stevenson, Airman 1st Class Erin Kesler, Airman 1st Class Joseph Michael and Airman 1st Class James Smith boarded the "Dixie Queen" and headed into the Gulf of Mexico for a day on the water.

Sergeant Greer, noncommissioned officer in charge of MacDill's Honor Guard, said the tournament was "just a way to get the honor guard units from all over the state together."

The team didn't come home empty handed either; they brought home trophies in three different categories. The team itself won second place for total number of fish landed with a grand total of 158. Airman Michael put the most fish in the boat, and the star of the tournament was Lieutenant Caldwell, who landed the biggest fish of the day.

Jim Rudolf, Veteran's Cremation and Burial Society president, said he felt that not enough is being done to say thank you to the honor guard members from Florida so he, along with Bivouac Veteran's News, organized the event as a way to express their gratitude.

Airman Michael, who took home the prize for the most fish caught, said the event was a great way to build morale.

"They provided poles, bait and everything we needed. We just showed up," said Airman Michael. "It was one of the few times that both teams (Alpha and Bravo flights) were together."

For those who think they may have literally missed the boat, there is another chance for fishing fun coming up Nov. 16.

Servicemembers from all branches are invited to take part in the "Take a Soldier Fishing" tournament hosted by the Islamorada Charter Boat Association. Potential anglers can register by calling 954-683-3252 or online at www.takeasoldierfishing.com.

Bill Semple, event coordinator and president of DB Marketing Team Inc., said the idea spawned from a brief conversation with his son.

"Late one night when he was about to go to bed, he asked me if we could do anything for the people in the military who had done so much for us," said Mr. Semple. "I can't think of a better way than this tournament for me to be able to say thank you to the military for what they do here at home and everything that's going on overseas."

While participating in a fishing tournament is certainly not the only way to build strong team loyalty, it is definitely one of the more popular ways to enjoy the many recreational outlets available in the Tampa Bay area. And it's definitely a way to build a spirit of friendly good-fellowship.




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