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Jun 28, 2013 1:00 PM by Samantha Ptashkin

Purple Heart recipients head to Mexico for free fishing trip

TUCSON- Harold Rank can tell you the beaches in San Carlos are a far cry from the battlefields in Iraq.

"I had a 120 mm rocket land about five feet from me," Rank says. "It blew out my neck and both my knees."

The marine earned a Purple Heart after two tours in Iraq.

A couple years ago he got a big thanks from three Tucson businessesmen. "There has never been a more deserving group," Rom Dryden says. "I mean these guys have lost limbs, eyes and everything else for our freedom and it's our way of giving back."

For the past four years, Dryden, along with brothers Michael and Norman Don have taken 25 Purple Heart recipients on a free fishing trip to San Carlos, Mexico. They got the idea from a national group called "Project Healing "Waters". The non-profit was created in 2005 to serve wounded military service members once they return from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The group gives the service members free fishing lessons.

This year the Don Brothers and Dryden are taking 12 more veterans, mostly from Arizona, on the fishing trip.

Rank, who is from California, is going on the trip for the second time. "Just everybody coming together to do something like this for us, it really means a lot," Rank says.

The guys spend their days fishing, relaxing on the beach and bonding in a way that only the veterans would understand. "What they've been through is pretty eye opening," Michael Don says. "In certain ways it's heartbreaking and in other ways, it's enlightening."

The weekend trip would normally cost $3,000 to $4,000 a person, but thanks to donations from the community, all the guys have to worry about is having a good time. "The scenery down there is beautiful, it takes your mind off things," Rank says.

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