Minnesota veterans start nonprofit fishing to fight PTSD “one cast at a time”

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Veterans Lindsay and Richard Puente have created an organization, Cast & Hook Fishing, to take first responders and veterans out fishing to help them cope with the trauma of what they have seen in their jobs. (Facebook)

ST. PAUL, Minn. (Tribune News Service) – Lindsay and Richard Puente were about to start a food truck as a supplement to their regular jobs – he’s a St. Paul cop and she’s a licensed professional clinical counselor – when he had a dream that changed their way.

He woke up in June and told Lindsay, who is a veteran like him, that they should start an organization to take first responders and veterans out fishing to help them cope with the trauma of what they saw in their work.

“I could tell he had a strong belief and I said, ‘Let’s do it,’” Lindsay said.

Cast & Hook Fishing took off three days later. Their motto is “Fighting PTSD, One Cast at a Time”.

Richard Puente and another officer were the first to arrive last month at the Seventh Street Truck Park bar shooting that injured 15 people and killed a woman. It was a busy and difficult night, though not the most heartbreaking of some of the death scenes he responded to in his four years as an officer.

Most military personnel don’t regularly see dead people, “but I can’t tell you a single first responder who hasn’t seen it, felt it, experienced it,” Puente said.

Les Puentes is grateful for the resources already in place for veterans to get help with post-traumatic stress disorder, but they feel it’s more difficult for first responders – especially at a time when officers of the Law enforcement agencies feel increased hostility since the Minneapolis police murder. by George Floyd last year.

Peace on the water

Lindsay and Richard Puente, married for eight years, grew up fishing. “As soon as I was able to throw a pole, I was probably there,” he said.

“Being on the water is my getaway, it’s therapeutic,” said Richard. “I forget everything when I go out, so Lindsay and I both wanted to share this with the others.”

They raised Cast & Hook on Facebook and heard from veterans and first responders offering to volunteer for their organization, as well as people who said they would need help and time on the water. The Puente started taking people on their boat.

So far, Cast & Hook has taken over 100 veterans and first responders and their families fishing. Beyond law enforcement officers, they worked with firefighters, paramedics, paramedics, 911 attendants, and dispatchers and correctional officers.

They don’t ask people about their job or their PTSD, but Richard said most open up. “There is a lot of commonality without even having to say anything,” Lindsay added.

Lindsay served in the Army National Guard for eight years and Richard spent 12 years in the Army Reserve and deployed to Baghdad in 2009. They were both affected by PTSD and Richard’s brother , Michael Puente, died by suicide three months after Richard’s return. From Iraq.

Richard and Lindsay Puente have said they will do anything to give people hope.

“You can get help and there’s no shame in it,” said Lindsay, who focuses as a counselor on working with women who are veterans and also with caregivers. health. “It takes a lot of courage and strength to say, ‘I need help.’ “

Break the stigma

After the Seventh Street Truck Park bar shooting, Richard spent time fishing. This is often where he goes to decompress after a long week of work.

Many of the situations that first responders are called upon are traumatic.

“These are situations that no one is prepared to face because these are atypical situations,” Lindsay said.

Departments offer employee assistance programs and peer support, which can be helpful, but the Puentes like the idea of ​​fishing as a therapy because the stakes are lower – people don’t have to wait. a date and it’s easier to say, “I’m in trouble, I’m going out fishing.”

“We want to break that stigma with law enforcement, first responders,” said Richard. “We are expected to be mentally strong and strong people, but it is quite difficult to protect people when you are struggling with things yourself. You have to take care of yourself, at the end of the day, to take care of others. “

Support from companies, volunteers

St. Paul’s volunteers and businesses have been instrumental in helping Cast & Hook expand their cause.

Brian and Sarah Ingram, owners of Purpose Driven Restaurants, gave them an extra boat.

“We had a boat that we used from time to time to hang out with our family, but it seemed their need was much greater than ours,” said Brian Ingram. “And we thought, ‘Would it be nice if they could stay longer and take more people out fishing? “”

Cast & Hook provides fishing gear and licenses if people can’t afford or don’t have them, and they also teach people how to fish. The location depends on where people want to go – some of the places they head to are the St. Croix River for catching walleye and Cedar Lake in western Wisconsin for shit.

A retired colonel wanted to learn fly fishing so he could teach other veterans. Pat Mancini, co-owner of Mancini’s Char House on West Seventh Street, has taken him several times – to the Kinnickinnic and Rush rivers in Wisconsin.

“These fighting men and women, they’ve been through a lot,” Mancini said. “Being in the restaurant business, I listen a lot.

Meanwhile, Soapy Joe’s Car Wash donated $ 1,000 to Cast & Hook for kayaks, which participants can sign up to spend time on the water.

“It’s been a very difficult couple of years for the police,” said Joe Lindsay, general manager and co-owner of West Seventh Street. “I really admire and appreciate what Cast & Hook does for the health and well-being of the people who serve and protect us.”

People can go through the Cast & Hook website at castandhookfishing.com to volunteer or donate to the organization, which is registered as a nonprofit in Wisconsin. First responders and veterans facing trauma and wanting to learn more about fishing with Cast & Hook can also do so through the website.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be contacted 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255.

(c) 2021 the Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.)

Visit Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.) At www.twincity.com

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