Rod Crafting for Veterans
Our program was originally introduced and developed within Wounded Warrior Anglers of America as part of its alternative therapy mental health programs in April 2015, for disabled veteran members of the organization and was called Warrior’s Handcrafted Rod Building Program.
“We had veterans opening up to the instructors and developing mutual bonds within a couple of hours in teaching them,” founder and Capt. David Souders said of the veterans chatting freely with their instructors during the April 2015 program in Oviedo, Florida. “You don’t ever see that. Their guards were down . . . walls and barriers were coming down. It was a phenomenal event.”
The therapy based Warrior’s Handcrafted Rod Building Program came to fruition after David talked to Buck McTee, a Navy veteran who founded Region 2 in Southeast Florida about the overall goals and visions for Wounded Warrior Anglers and his aspiration to expand and start a therapy based Rod Building Program.
This is something David had made multiple attempts on with Mud Hole Custom Tackle in Oviedo, Florida, and struggled with no success over a three year period to begin a therapy based Rod Building Program. Buck offered assistance since his son worked at American Tackle Company International. His son initiated networking with American Tackle Company International, which led to working with Don Morse, who works for the company.
The program invites members to a weekend event, which includes an introduction and meet-and greet the first day, followed by the Wounded Warrior Anglers veterans working with instructors during a hands-on workshop. The final day of the program takes the warriors and instructors out on the water for an afternoon of fishing with their new handcrafted, personalized rods.
“There is nothing more exciting than catching a fish on the rod you built,” Morse said.
The second workshop was held at Laishley Park Municipal Marina Community Room in Punta Gorda in September 2015, where the room was transformed into rows of tables with everything the warrior needed to create a breathtaking rod. Members of the Mosquito Creek Rod Crafters donated their time, taking the Wounded Warrior Anglers members through the various stages of completing a rod.
The process of creating a custom rod takes on many steps, all of which stem from selecting a blank depending on the type of fishing one wants to do. The next step is deciding the dimensions of the rod to best fit an individual’s body type, followed by choosing the rod’s handle.
Guides are then placed on the rod depending where the blank flexes to ensure its efficiency. The guides are then wrapped with thread before an epoxy finish is placed on top.
For Wounded Warrior Anglers member Tony DelleDonne the workshop provided a very relaxing atmosphere allowing him to perfect his new skill.
“You have to concentrate. You get away for a while working at it,” he said.
When Wounded Warrior Anglers of America opened its doors to its Headquarters and Training Facility in 2016, the Warrior’s Handcrafted Rod Building Program continued to benefit its members on a regular basis. Members have the opportunity to sign up for a two hour window at two different tables during operating hours to work on their custom rod.
With great success of the Warrior’s Handcrafted Rod Building program and changes in the organization name in 2017, it was very important for American Military Veterans Foundation, Inc. to carry on with this legacy program, but with greater focus in helping not only disabled veterans but also including all veterans in the program. With this focus want the program to accurately reflect our overall goals and mission and rebranded it as Rod Crafting for Veterans keeping in line with our veteran centric branding.
All Rod Crafting for Veterans program courses are provided to the Veterans, Disabled Veterans members at minimal charge of $40.00 for participation. We have had overwhelming demand for the Rod Crafting for Veterans program continues to rise and though virtually all resources raised for this program go directly into blanks, components, and epoxies, and related gear, we sadly cannot help every qualified applicant because limited seats and funding.
Together, we can bring more Rod Crafting for Veterans courses to our Veterans, Disabled Veterans members with donations of money, gear and related tackle. By donating $175.00 you can send one Veteran, Disabled Veterans through the Rod Crafting for Veterans and enable us to continue sharing the healing power of alternative mental health therapy programs with deserving heroes locally.