PHOENIX - A local organization is using the outdoors as a platform to build relationships, and the goal of these relationships is to help veterans and first responders.
"It's time away," said combat veteran and current law enforcement officer John Strickland. "It's time to decompress and just kind of forget."
Forgetting the stress of day-to-day life is easier to do when people are on the lake. The open, calm water, fresh air, and stillness help to refresh and re-energize.
This is what David Bishop with Warriors Code Fishing is hoping to provide to warriors.
"These warriors, which we define as first responders, police officers, firefighters, EMS, dispatchers, veterans and currently serving military members, these guys live a life where every day they go out there and protect us, so we can enjoy these freedoms like going to the lake and spending time with our family."
Bishop, who struggled with severe PTSD, found peace in the outdoors. Once he overcame many of his obstacles, he wanted to give back.
"Having gone through PTSD myself and gone through the darkness of suicidal thoughts and suicidal tendencies, being medically retired from the police force from PTSD and shooting incidents, I really understand what it is like for a warrior who may not want to talk about it and just wants to be around someone who understands, or to someone who does want to talk about it," said Bishop.
Bishop is now giving back through Warriors Code Fishing, where he and other members take the warriors out fishing. They provide everything from the boat, to the guide, equipment, and food. They even pay for the fishing license.
"People who suffer from PTSD, or warriors who are hyper-vigilant or always focusing on threat assessing and threat awareness is very hard for first responders and warriors to turn off," said Bishop. "When you come fishing, you're required to focus on what you're doing. This isn't the type of fishing where you just put a worm on a hook and throw it out there and let it sit and have casual conversation. Here, we really get you engaged in the sport of fishing. We show you what lures to use, we show you where to cast, we show you what cadence to use when you're ticking your lure across the bottom to really entice these fish, and what it does is it puts the warrior in the frame of mind that it's extremely relaxing."
Strickland has fished many times in the past, but he hasn't found the time to get back on the lake until now, thanks to the organization.
"Life can be a struggle, and a lot of times, we don't realize what we're experiencing at the time in the moment," said Strickland. "A lot of people are spiraling and they don't realize they're spiraling, and it's people like Dave [Bishop] who reach out and put their hand on your shoulder and say 'hey, I have something for you,'" said Strickland.
Strickland has found peace this day on the lake.
"For me, it's about just sharing the experience. If we're going to come out and talk, we can come and talk. If we just want to fish, we'll just fish. There are no expectations," said Strickland. "It's something that I plan on taking back to my friends, people that I served with, people that I've worked with because I want them to share in this opportunity as well."
Warrior Code Fishing