Purple Hearts help their own

24 Oct 2005 | Sgt. Tracee L. Jackson

Six Purple Heart recipients from the II Marine Expeditionary Force skipped a routine week of work fishing for funds to help other Marines and sailors with combat injuries.

The five Marines and Navy Corpsman hopped a plane to the Virgin Islands to compete in a deep-sea fishing tournament sponsored by the Injured Marine Semper Fi Foundation and ESPN2.  The new fisherman arrived in St. Thomas, greeted by locals and crewmembers from  Billfishing Xtreme Release League.

The tournament, known as the Purple Heart Challenge, is scheduled to air on ESPN in the spring of 2006. The island surroundings and warm welcome were only the beginning of the adventure for the Caribbean’s newest sportsmen.

Six teams from the reality television show have been traveling the Caribbean competing in various sports competitions for prize money. Each team picked one of the service members to join them on their boats in hope of reeling in the big one. After a day of practice, the group set to the sea with camera crews in tow to make waves and raise public awareness of what it means to live with combat injuries.

Deep-sea fishing was a new experience for 1st Lt. John V. Flanagan, currently an Air Intelligence Officer stationed on Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, originally from Miami Springs, Fl.

“When you’re fishing, it’s a team effort,” he said, describing the sport to be physically and mentally demanding, “as you work, the first mate leads and tags the fish, the captain has to steer the boat with the fish, and you’re taking advise from everyone. Everyone on the boat is working to help you pull it in.”

Flanagan caught two blue Marlins, one of which weighed approximately 300 pounds.
“You don’t imagine it until the fish gets on the line, and then it’s like dragging a car along the bottom of the ocean,” said Lance Cpl. Jesse Jordan, a military policeman aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., who was injured in Iraq by an Improvised Explosive Device, who fought with a marlin for half an hour.

“It was really awesome because we were able to help out other Marines,” he said, “the people there were really awesome.”

“We were overwhelmed by the support everyone showed us,” agreed Flanagan, who expressed his thanks on behalf of all six participants.