Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center
Veteran Fishing Retreat
“Bless the troops who put their life on the line for us. Watch over us today as we embark on this day of fishing. Thank you for letting Chris be here with us today.”
When fishing with The Reel Deal Charters of Charleston a prayer is said before every fishing excursion and on this day that was no exception. What was different, however, was that along for the ride and experience this particular day was Charleston VA Medical Center’s Community Living Center resident, Chris Gibson.
Gibson is a 38 year-old Air Force Veteran who loves to fish and has been enjoying the hobby his entire life. He recalls teaching himself to fish at an early age.
“I used to ride my bike to the creek when I was a young boy,” said Gibson. “The best thing about fishing for me is fighting the fish and reeling them in.”
Gibson was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December 2013 and has been a resident in the Charleston VAMC CLC since the beginning of April. Gibson was able to join the group for the day thanks to some employees at the Charleston VA Medical Center.
David Bradbury, chief of prosthetics at the Charleston VA Medical Center, met Chris by chance while sitting outside the VA having lunch.
“Chris was in his power wheelchair and came outside for some fresh air,” said Bradbury. “We began to talk about his military experience as many Veterans do and I learned of his service in the Air Force.
“He told me of his medical condition and began talking about various activities and one common subject that came about was fishing. He expressed to me that if he could do one more thing it would be going back out on a boat for a fishing trip. We departed ways shortly after and I returned to my office and discussed this with some employees who had contacts within the community and this is where the planning began.”
Bill Campbell, Program Coordinator at the Charleston VA Medical Center, was happy to reach out to his contacts at The Reel Deal Charters to make Gibson’s wish a reality.
“The trip was a great opportunity to do something for a well deserving Veteran,” said Bradbury. “It’s events in the community like this that bring people together for a common goal of having fun. It was truly a blessing to share that time with Chris and his pleasure for fishing.”
The sun was shining bright over the Cooper River the day of the fishing excursion and it was obvious from Gibson’s smile that he didn’t want to be anywhere else but there on the water.
“This is great. I’m excited about today. The last time I went fishing I didn’t catch anything, so hopefully today there will be something,” said Gibson.
Not only did Gibson end up catching something during the fishing trip, he caught the biggest fish of the day.
The Reel Deal Charters is owned and operated by Rich and Theresa Harris and they were more than happy to accommodate Gibson on one of their fishing trips.
No matter what branch of service, we are family. This is what you do for family. Take care of one another,” said Theresa Harris, an Air force Veteran herself.
Gibson said he can’t thank the employees in the CLC enough for giving him the opportunity to enjoy so many activities as a resident and for teaching him one very important thing:
“Enjoy the time you have because you just never know.”