NAVARRE — A pair of Hurlburt Field airmen helped give some veterans the thrill of their lives last week.
Master Sgt. Chester Gamble and his friend Master Sgt. David Wood, co-founders of the non-profit group American Yakers, had taken 10 veterans and several family members on a shark fishing outing on Navarre Beach last Saturday morning. Earlier, the group had gone kayaking (“yaker” is a slang term for kayaker) to catch some king mackerel, which they used for bait to land a 10-foot, 2-inch mako shark.
Gamble said that while the organization, which provides free fishing trips for veterans, has reeled in big sharks before, this was their first mako.
“We’ve caught big hammerheads and tiger sharks,” he said. “But the mako isn’t on the protected species list, so we were able to keep it and harvest its meat.”
The group was able to get more than 550 pounds of meat from the shark, which they shared with more than 40 veterans.
“It was delicious,” Gamble said.
The airman said he and Wood invested their own money to start their organization three years ago, and have since provided 89 veterans and their families with free fishing outings. Veterans from every branch of service and from all over the country have taken part in the events.
“We don’t care what their job was,” Gamble said. “We’re just happy to have them out there.”
Last week’s catch was even more special because Gamble’s 13-year-old son, Tyler, was able to participate, he said.
“It took us about two hours to reel him in, so all the vets got to take part, too,” he added. “I’ve hunted and fished all over the world, but this was one of the greatest moments in my life.”