Military service runs in Jim Doering’s family. Doering, foodservice director with Metz Culinary Management at Optim Medical Center in Reidsville, Ga., served for 20 years. His brothers also were in the military. Doering, who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, was treated much differently after his service than his brothers were after their tours in Vietnam. To Doering, every service member should be treated with respect, something he’s trying to do with soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Doering is giving back by taking those soldiers fishing in the ocean, with the hope that the sea is a calming respite for wounded soldiers.
“My brothers were in Vietnam. It struck me that when they came back it was more of an embarrassment. We didn’t really support those troops when they returned from that war. Yet when I came home from Operation Iraqi Freedom all the soldiers were treated well. The city of Richmond Hill, Ga., does a Wounded Warrior fishing rodeo every year and there were so many boats that I just decided that we would start something up ourselves. My wife and I both like to fish.
The past six months I’ve taken quite a few soldiers out, at my own expense. The vets who come back like to fish but don’t have the assets to get out on the ocean. We took a few out just as a test run. A lot of the veterans have post-traumatic stress syndrome. I was thinking this would be an outlet for them to forget about the things that happened in the war. They can have a little fun and relaxation.
We’re still working to get this rolling. We’ve had success just taking out people I knew or people others knew. We’ve caught some big, offshore species and had a blast with it. My wife and I decided that we could give back to the military. My neighbor, who is a deacon at a local church, is helping to get some veterans and Wounded Warriors for us. We’re not really advertising. I’m going to get with another neighbor, who is an officer with a local VFW, to get some others to take out.
I’m still actively involved on the military post. If I’m going up to the commissary to buy something I’ll sit and chat with a couple of vets. Eventually we get around to me asking if they like to fish, and I tell them what I can do for them. A lot look at me like there is some catch. I try to get people mostly by word of mouth. I’m hoping it gets really big and I can take out two charters a day, four hours each, on Saturdays and Sundays.
It’s a choice we make to be a soldier. There seems to be a lot more support for the vets from Iraq, but every time I see a homeless vet on a corner I want to go to the local paper and say, ‘What are we doing? Why can’t we take care of these guys?’ My wife and I decided this was our way of giving back.
We go out in the ocean, from 20 to 40 miles out. We have a really nice area here about 20 miles from our house. We go out to Gray’s Reef. There are numerous shipwrecks out there and Navy towers, which the fish congregate around. We catch a lot of amberjack, barracuda and a lot of smaller black bass.
I hope this will take off. Maybe I can get a couple of other people who have boats and we can set aside one day a year and make this a full-blown thing. I try to take vets out on the weekends. We try to get out every weekend and take at least one soldier out or a solider and his kids and wife.
Fishing is therapy for me as well. I refuse to take my cellphone out on the water. My wife and I relax. We sit out there and enjoy the day. It’s time for us to enjoy nature and each other.”