“A guy walks into a bar, orders a drink…” and finds HOPE. I know you were thinking of the Tyler Farr country song about finding love, but this one is a bit different because he already found the love of his life but was looking for purpose.
Meet Anthony Cubbage, a Missouri native and Air Force veteran who bumped into HOPE’s Senior Staff Accountant, Katie Watts, at a local pub in October 2019. He and his wife, a Security Forces Airman, just moved to their new duty station in Quantico, VA. Medically retired from the Air Force in 2016, Anthony felt lost in his transition and new community.
Anthony served 14 years as a nuclear weapons specialist. Near the end of his career, the stressful nature of the job itself, managing a unit control center, unit security, scheduling section, commanders support staff and the constant demand for perfection in such a high-security job left him burnt out. This burn out left him with feelings of hopelessness and a plan to end his life.
At 17, I was Airman Cubbage. At 33, I was just a broken veteran.
With a plan in mind and his dog in the passenger seat of his truck, Anthony drove for hours through the night on familiar back roads in his home state. As the sun was rising, it was then he found the courage and bravery to drive straight to the medical group and seek help.
Committed to finding light in a dark time, Anthony checked himself into inpatient therapy and engaged in healing activities like art therapy, individual and group therapy with other service members and veterans. Returning to duty after 28-days, Anthony, with the help of his Squadron Commander, made the tough decision to leave his Air Force career behind to focus on his healing. He continued to seek professional therapy to battle the dark thoughts through 2018.
During this time and through the hardships of transition, Anthony was able to reconnect with something that always brought him peace and happiness – the great outdoors.
Fishing, camping and immersing himself in nature provided Anthony with clarity in life for as long as he can remember. His fondest memories were the camping trips he took with his family and fishing trips with his Grandfather, who helped him develop this passion. This was something that kept him going during his years in the military by taking 30 days of leave annually to head home to Missouri and camp, fish and canoe with friends and family. Today, fishing is the most effective therapy for Anthony and has provided direction in his life.
A new year came with a new set of orders to Virginia. It was there where Anthony become involved with The Fallen Outdoors – a nonprofit organization established to facilitate hunting and fishing trips for veterans. His volunteer work sparked the idea to turn his passion for fishing into a career.
Anthony began to plan to start his own fishing charter, but one thing was standing in his way from taking his business to the next level, a Captain’s License.
After meddling over the information Katie shared with him a few months prior, Anthony finally reached out and applied for HOPE services. HOPE staff worked with Anthony one-on-one and found a way to help – with a business grant that paid for his USCG master captain’s license training! As of February of this year, he completed his coursework and is in the process of making “Atomic Fishing Charters” an official business.
Atomic Fishing Charters goal is to provide veterans with outdoor experiences they will remember. While he plans to focus mainly on catfishing and bow fishing, he hopes to expand his services down the road to include striped bass fishing.
I wanted to make a living off of what I’m passionate about, and that’s helping others.
What cemented Anthony’s desire to pursue this path full-time was an encounter with a veteran, who is now a pastor, this past January. Throughout their 5-hour day out on the water, this man reeled in 25 fish and told Anthony he had never been so happy. “I got to take this older veteran out and share with him the joy I feel when fishing,” he told us. “This is 110% what I want to do for the rest of my life. The joy in their faces when they’re out catching fish is the best thing for me.”
We are honored to be a part of Anthony’s journey and provide him with this new opportunity to start his own business. For other veterans searching for their own post-service purpose, Anthony has some advice, “When transitioning out of the military – find something that you love to do and do it every chance you get. You’ve spent the last 4-30 years doing WHAT someone tells you, WHEN they tell you and HOW to do something. If you can get out on your own and have fun, do it. If you’re trying to start your own business, take advice from anyone you can and see what fits you best.”