BAGRAM, Afghanistan - As the sun slowly peeks over the horizon, restless crickets and morning birds serenade the morning air. The crisp dew and smell of fresh spring grass permeate the atmosphere, while the misty fog ascends from the crystal depths. With the turn of a key, the prop bubbles, and there is no better place on Earth.
Passion is defined as a strong affection or enthusiasm for an object or concept, and that certainly describes how Maj. Mike Rasco feels about bass fishing and his charity work with Fishing for Freedom.
When asked if fishing is his hobby, Rasco, Executive Officer for the 3rd Battalion, 401st Army Field Support Brigade, only smiled. “Fishing is a passion. A hobby is something you do, fishing is something you live.” The 39-year-old Alabama native from Trussville is a 20-year Army veteran with an undying plan to one day become a professional bass angler.
Year after year, soldiers leave their families and their passions to embark on the greater mission of protecting our nation. This essential act of service is critical to the welfare of our country, and Rasco has answered that call on seven occasions. Currently deployed to Afghanistan, Rasco plans to retire in five years, and then embark upon his dream to become a professional.
Bass fishing is not an everyday sport. It takes skill, time, effort, and most importantly, patience. Many bass fishermen will tell you, they have spent many hours in front of the television watching bass fishing legends like Roland Martin, Orlando Wilson, Hank Parker, and the comical Bill Dance catch lunker after lunker. All for the purpose of honing their skill, hoping next Saturday will be better than the last.
The passion for bass fishing is not just a love for the sport. It is a love for mentoring our youth, conserving the environment, sharing with fellow soldiers, and most importantly, family.
Supporting our Soldiers and providing mentorship to others has always been a top priority for Rasco, and as he was working towards his Masters in Business Administration (MBA), he realized an opportunity existed to create a non-profit business that allows him to combine his passion and experience. The Fishing for Freedom Tournament brings contenders and Wounded Warriors from across the country to an organization that gives them the opportunity to relax and share their stories with fellow Warriors.
“Fishing has always been a big part of my life, and I saw this as an opportunity to give back the lessons I have learned over the years,” said Rasco. “Fishing for Freedom also gives me the opportunity to transfer the skills I have learned as an Executive Officer in the military and as an MBA candidate to running a private organization.”
Over the course of a day, competitors across the country compete for the tournament trophy. But even if they get skunked on the lake, a day on the water is still a good day. The opportunity to get together as a cohesive group, and share stories with comrades who understand and have been through similar situations, is what Fishing for Freedom is about.
As Rasco continues his work with Fishing for Freedom, he still maintains focus on becoming a professional angler. When asked what the first thing he will do is when he gets on the podium, Rasco replied with, “I will thank my fellow soldiers and mentors, past and present, who have helped me along the way.”