RUSKIN (FOX 13) - A special group of veterans recently traveled to the Bay Area from all over the country to visit, reminisce, and -- for some, like Creed McCaslin -- to fish.
"I started fishing when I was like 4 or 5," McCaslin told FOX 13's Mark Wilson.
McCaslin recently retired as a senior member of the U.S. Army Special Forces Green Berets with more than 24 years of service and nearly a dozen tours -- half of them in Iraq or Afghanistan.
While he has no trouble casting a greenback, his body has been ravaged by war. He has a blown left ear, shrapnel in his arm and a fractured lower back.
"I've been hit by well over 40 -- it's been documented -- suicide bombers, IEDs, mortar rounds, close proximity," McCaslin explained.
And while most of his body is healed, the emotional scars from the fighting and the losses still weigh heavily on him. That's why days like a recent breezy morning on the bay are worth their weight in gold.
"You know, I look at things like this and to have a day like this is phenomenal," he said with a wide smile.
Chartering his boat was fishing captain Tim Whitfield, who operates SwiftFish Charters out of Tampa. He was playing not only host, but therapist. And free of charge.
"I'm not gonna complain about my sciatica anymore," Whitefield said after hearing of McCaslin's battlefield injuries.
Whitefield is one of a handful of fishing captains who stepped up to help out vets like McCaslin, who came to the Bay Area recently to relax and unwind with fellow 'Deuce Four' veterans, members of the elite 24th Regiment.
"You know, I live a pretty good life here in Florida, taking people fishing for a living, and some guys out there are doing the necessary things to afford me that luxury," Whitfield said about helping out.
But time on the water was only part of McCaslin's trip. He spent time reuniting with some of the soldiers who he went through some very heavy fighting with. His unit say tremendous success, taking back Mosul and Tal Afar in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also felt tremendous losses.
Gatherings like this can offer more healing than they can find anywhere else.
"It's very therapeutic not only for me, for my own wounds and injuries, but also therapeutic when I can help one of the other guys on the team and be there for them," McCaslin continued.
The non-profit group 'My Warrior's Place' in Ruskin also helped with accommodations and organizers are already reaching out to local business who may be interested in helping out with next year's event.