Ladies Veterans Trip – December 2015

2015 was an interesting year.  The three previous years were pretty much dedicated to work. Whether it was the Foundation, apparel, or production work it all kept my attention. It helped keep me busy and work through my grief.

The year 2015 was different. I was getting married! Dave and I had been together since 2009.  My dad passed away in 2012.  I learned he and Dave had lunch planned on a Monday. He died on the Friday before.  My family told me that Dave was going to ask my dad for my hand in marriage. (I know dad would have said yes. He once said to me;

“Krissy do you know why I like Dave so much?”

“Why is that dad?”

“Because he doesn’t’ take your $hit”

“Uh, thanks Dad…I think?”)

When I found out, I asked Dave to give me some time. Walking down the aisle without my dad was not something I was ready for. He completely understood, and told me to let him know.

Fast forward to January 2015. Dave suffered a serious fall striking his head. The result, a fractured skull, brain bleed, behavior changes all two weeks before our wedding. Don’t worry I’m getting to the point here in a minute. He spent time in the ICU, two hospitals, craziness, but we did it. We got married. Dave jokes that it might be null and void because he wasn’t all there mentally BUT…

It was a long road. TBI (traumatic brain injury) is no joke. My friends and family were great, but I’ve got to give it up for our veterans. A lot of them have or know people close to them who have suffered from TBI. The memory loss, the mood swings, impulse control, sensory changes, headaches etc… Our vets acted like a support group for me. They also relate to Dave as a veteran too. They would let me know that this wasn’t forever. His brain was still healing. It wasn’t easy for either of us.  But I guess that’s why there is that “For sickness, and in health” part. I am blessed to say that Dave is back to his version of normal.

My point of sharing this is The Foundation couldn’t do as many trips as we were hoping to earlier in the year. So in November of 2015 we decided to do three trips back to back.

Our first group was something we haven’t done before. All ladies!  If you are a woman in the military or know one, then you know it can be difficult. There is a double standard. Women may be discouraged from seeking promotions, can be  isolated and not taken as seriously. This is similar to what minorities went through at an earlier time. Worse of all is the long standing culture of excusing rape and domestic violence toward women. Rape trials in the military (when a woman dares to come forward) are reminiscent of civilian trials 50 years ago.  The victim is blamed, her behavior is penalized. It is bitterly ironic that in the military your co-workers are supposed to protect each other. When a woman is assaulted, not only has that expectation been violated, but she is often pressured to not bring charges. Change is coming, but it is painfully slow.

I am not saying that any of this happened to our girls…it may have been a friend, or maybe an acquaintance…but it does happen. And sometimes it’s a superior that does it to you. What does a woman do then?

Our veterans this time were Karen (Marines), Cynthia (Navy), Liz (Army) and Karla (Navy). I lucked out with the vacation home we rented. The place was beautiful. A real gem. Ironically, it is owned by the widow of a man who used to fish with my dad. She graciously gave us a deal on the house.

The first night we chatted and got to know each other. We fished for two days with brothers Brandon and Jared Cyr. The first day was tough. Bait was hard to find, and the tides were not cooperating. We went to one spot to find Dave on his charter on the flats boat. We were on the 34 foot Spanish Fly SeaVee. Dave’s client was a fan of the show, and was more than happy to let us steal Dave and the Hell’s Bay Biscayne to throw the net on some pilchards. Finally some bait!

We started off fishing for yellow tail. After anchoring on this windy day a familiar pattern began. First Karen started to feel queasy. I always ask our trip participants if they get seasick? About 80% say no. These are people who have survived trauma whether it is a child who had cancer or a combat vet. The ocean, however, is the great equalizer. In reality I would say only about 30% of the people don’t get seasick. No shame in that. It has nothing to do with how tough you are.

We caught plenty of fish for dinner, and were going to kick it up a notch and go offshore. However 3 of the 4 women were now puking.  When I asked if they wanted to go in they all said no. So I made the decision for them. When we went in I thought we were going to drop off one, and the rest would go back out. That was not the case. The girls didn’t want to leave anyone behind so we called it a day. They went home and rested up.

The next day was great. Everyone took Dramamine, and Dave was able to join us. They would call Dave “Coach” and the handsome Brandon “Bransome”.  Jared spins when he throws the cast net. It makes the net go farther. The ladies loved watching him. They caught big tuna and Liz caught one of the biggest sails I have seen down here.

The next day they went spearfishing with Michelle from Spear It Charters.  Michelle has done a lot with the foundation, and everyone loves her. Michelle does a great job at teaching, and making sure everyone is comfortable. The girls paid attention and got lots of lobster.

Their last activity was a eco-tour with Key West  Extreme Adventures. The trip went very well. Clay was their guide. They thought he was charming. Clay responded in kind but was the consummate professional.

After their trip they went home to freshen up. A former veteran trip recipient, Jose, drove down from Miami to join us. He blended perfectly with the women vets. That night was the room dedication at the Square Grouper restaurant for my dad. For those who don’t know it was my dad’s favorite restaurant (and now rated number 1 by Trip Advisor.) They opened an upstairs lounge area, and dedicated the back private room to my dad. When the women got there, heard some of the stories, and met some of his friends we were all crying together.They had never watched him, but now felt they would like to.

It was special to be able to include the veterans in the dedication, but this is what we at the Foundation do. When we are hosting a group they become part of the Spanish Fly family and are included in whatever is going on. They were all so sweet and grateful for this trip.

The fishing is just what gets people to come down. The non-judgmental, relaxed atmosphere is what creates the relationships that build and endure long after the group returns home. It was my privilege to get to know these four veterans who are now part of the Spanish Fly family.

‘What an honor and privilege to be part of an amazing foundation with fellow kindred souls with a common passion for life. Truly an experience I shall always treasure as a commitment to a person that left behind an admirable legacy. Jose was a true inspiration for many of us struggling to reconnect and the Jose Wejebe Memorial Foundation has remained true to his wishes to continue inspiring people around the globe. I am forever grateful to the Foundation for their dedication and continued devotion to provide support to those in need.’ –Karen