By DAVID RAINER, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
After a ride through the significant chop caused an unusual June north wind, Capt. Bobby Abruscato pulled back on the throttle and idled to one of his favorite fishing spots in Grand Bay, west of Dauphin Island.
Aboard were a couple of special guests, Derrick Warfield and Kyle McCleland, who were quickly hooking fish during the inaugural The Fallen Outdoors (TFO) inshore fishing trip that treated a group of active military and veterans to the beautiful outdoors paradise we call the Alabama Gulf Coast.
Warfield, who resides at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery with his active-duty wife, retired after 10 years of active duty.
Since then, Warfield has taken up the cause that is TFO, which is a support group for active, retired, separated and medically retired military with a focus on the outdoors.
Before this week, TFO, a 501(c)3 charitable organization, hosted veterans and active military on mostly hunting excursions with only a little fishing mixed in.
“Most of our trips are done from Montgomery north,” Warfield said of the TFO’s Team Alabama. “We do a lot of hunting trips. Two weeks ago, we actually did a hog-hunting trip on a farm just south of Montgomery. We went out with three guys running dogs, and we got into about a 200-pound sow. The dogs caught the hog and we dispatched it.”
Needing to schedule events for the summer, Warfield reached out to several inshore fishing guides on the Alabama coast and quickly hooked up with Capt. Richard Rutland with Cold-Blooded Fishing.
“Richard said if there was anything he could do, he’d love to help,” Warfield said. “He said we could go out on his boat and make something happen. Then he said, ‘We need to make this big, something awesome.’”
Two weeks later, Warfield got a call from Rutland, who said, “I’ve got seven boats lined up. How many people can you get?”
Warfield posted the potential trip on The Fallen Outdoors Facebook page that reaches 14,000-15,000 veterans. Initially, Warfield got 25 takers, which whittled down to the 14 who enjoyed a day of fishing on the beautiful Alabama coast.
Rutland, a former president of the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo, got commitments from seven other captains. He also got a donation from the Mobile Jaycees, where he currently serves as chairman of the board. Additional boat captains included Abruscato with A-Team Adventures, Patric Garmeson with Ugly Fishing Charters, Wesley Hallman with Bay Sound Charters, Terry Turner, Ben Raines, Joe Geil and Theo Atkinson with Spots, Dots and Scales.