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Freedom Fighter Outdoors was formed as a way for charter captains to give back to veterans who are suffering from wartime injuries.
By Capt. Tom Mikoleski
Tags: inshore, offshore, special

The joys of the great outdoors are easily taken for granted by many of us who call this great country home. For most of us it’s easy to head down to our boat or the shoreline and cast a line in hopes of catching a fish. However, for many of our wounded veterans that served the United States in battle, this is simply not the case. The laborious task to just get to the water is often an obstacle too great for many of our veterans to overcome. In addition, the costs involved pertaining to equipment and/or guide fees put many outdoor adventures financially out of reach for many injured veterans.

That’s where my friend and fellow Captain Vincent LaSorsa has stepped up and stepped in. Vinnie is a seasonal visitor to Montauk, NY, where he helms the Last Mango, which just happens to be Jimmy Buffett’s personal sportfishing vessel. Vinnie has a younger brother, 1st Lt. Joe LaSorsa that is a U.S. Marine Veteran who saw combat in the Middle East. Since returning home, many of Lt. LaSorsa’s military compatriots have also begun arriving stateside. Many of these veterans returned home gravely scarred from combat injuries and experiences. Through Joe, Vinnie began hearing recollections of the veteran’s wartime incidents. It was at this time that Vinnie decided he had to do something to help these warriors out.

At the start of Capt. Vinnie’s mission, all trips were arranged through the Wounded Warrior Project. However, Vinnie eventually decided to start his own organization called Freedom Fighter Outdoors. Vinnie volunteered his time with his personnel boat to take some of the injured veterans out fishing from his home port in Florida. Vinnie’s goal was to help curb the staggering number of post-war suicides that were occurring within the veteran community. Many of these suicides were the result of the service veterans having experienced traumatic brain injuries and post traumatic stress disorder. Through his fishing outings, Vinnie wanted to provide the veterans with some much needed quality time in the great outdoors, hopeful that the veterans would be able to exorcise some of the demons resulting from their combat experiences.

In time, Vinnie informed Jimmy Buffett of what he was doing with the veterans. Once Mr. Buffett became aware of Vinnie’s efforts he immediately volunteered the use of the Last Mango to the cause. Once the Last Mango was on board, Capt. Vinnie now had the use of a larger vessel that allowed him to also bring along the veteran’s care-giving family members. This allowed Vinnie to show many more veterans and family members a once-in-a-lifetime experience that would help honor and empower our nation’s injured service veterans. In addition, Vinnie was also able to show the nation’s gratitude to the veterans’ families for the great sacrifices made to the United States of America.

The experiences for the Freedom Fighters begins with an arrival dinner the night before followed by fishing the next morning and wraps up with a prize ceremony.

At present, approximately six fishing trips a year take place at the renowned fishing ports of Key West, FL, Montauk, NY, and Nantucket, MA. In due course the word got out as to what Capt. Vinnie was accomplishing, and as a result many local captains also decided to get involved and offered their vessels free of charge to the veterans and their families. These outings have grown into mini fishing tournaments where the veterans get to compete against one another for the biggest fish caught.

The experiences for the Freedom Fighters begins with an arrival dinner the night before the excursions so all the parties can get comfortable at a meet and greet. Fishing begins the next morning with a fun-filled tournament with prizes donated by Yeti, Garmin, West Marine, Gost Global Security, Nitelze, Lawless, Edwards and Warren Investment Firm, The Zislin Group at Morgan Stanley and many other great sponsors. After the day’s fishing all involved are treated to a delicious BBQ dinner where the experiences of the day can be re-lived through fish tales and prizes are awarded to the victors. The next day the veterans can stay and enjoy the ambiance of the various fishing communities, or they can head home and relish their experiences over and over again.

As mentioned earlier, the expense of the boats are donated by the captains involved. However, funds are needed for the Freedom Fighters and their families for airfare, lodging, transportation and meals. If anyone would like to make a donation to this wonderful cause donations can be sent to: Freedom Fighter Outdoors, 2436 North Federal Highway #312, Lighthouse Point, FL 33064. Or you can log onto the web at Freedom Fighter Outdoors, emails can be sent to info@freedomfighteroutdoors.org or you can call 1-800-625-2565. I have donated a trip aboard my vessel the Grand Slam that will take place in June, and I’m looking forward to many more Freedom Fighter Outdoors events in the future.