Upper Keys fishing guide Sergeant Ben Trainer is everything you’d want in a United States Marine. He’s passionate, hardworking, honest, loyal and caring. From 2004 to 2012, Trainer gave the Marine Corps his all.

First he served as a vehicle driver and machinist at Combat Logistics Battalion 15 out of Camp Pendleton before joining the active duty reserves. Trainer was part of the Marine Corps’ initial push to seize control of the Al Anbar province in western Iraq, and patrolled and fought in some of the most dangerous places in the world – like Ramadi and Fallujah.

His duties alternated month to month, holding security for the Forward Operating Base his battalion occupied, responding instantly if the base was attacked as part of the “quick reaction force,” and conducting convoys along the dangerous roads. But on his first convoy out of Al Taqquadum Air Base, Trainer’s vehicle hit an improvised explosive device (IED). Marines were killed, and Trainer suffered shrapnel injuries to his face, head, and body.

But that’s not where his story ends. Trainer has recovered, moved to the Keys, and this year started Veteran R&R Fishing Inc. to honor veterans by offering them an unforgettable fishing experience. It’s part of his way to take care of his brothers and sisters in arms. Trainer is also celebrating a recent engagement to Susie Lewis. Semper Fi, and congratulations, Devil Dog!

How did you meet your fiancé? We met at Founders Park in Islamorada walking our dogs. Before we knew it, four hours had passed and we haven’t spent a day apart since.

How did you get to the Keys? After my enlistment I became a sport fishing guide in the Pacific Northwest for the last 10 years. Having a limited season to primarily summer and fall, I wanted to move to an area I could fish all year and what better place than the sport fishing capital of the world.

Where did you get your love of fishing? My father. My earliest memories I have are fishing with my dad. He made his living on the water. He was a fishing guide and captain most of his life. I fished with him up until he had a stroke a few months ago; he’s currently recovering so we can get him back out on the water.

What’s the best way an American can show gratitude to a veteran? Just thank them and – be patriotic. We just want the support of our neighbors and community. The Florida Keys are a great place for veterans. We have a lot of great people who love our troops and their country down here in the Keys

You’ve shown your gratitude for your brothers and sisters in arms by starting Veterans R&R Fishing Inc. How does it operate? We are a nonprofit organization that takes all veterans and active duty service members on 100 percent free fishing adventures and provide accommodations while they stay in the Keys. We also have started to do the same for police officers and firefighters as well. The amount of positive feedback we are getting is incredible. We started this at the beginning on this year and our guest house has been flooded with veterans and their friends and families nonstop since we started. They were all so thankful for the opportunity as most of them are young families that would never be able to afford a fishing vacation in the Florida Keys.

What are some challenges you face as a veteran in Monroe County? I’m somewhat new here, so I haven’t really had to face too many challenges, other than the fact that our veterans center doesn’t have a therapist on staff and, as someone who suffers with PTSD, I would have to drive to Miami for an hour session or pay out of pocket.

What do you believe is the most important thing that everyday citizens should understand about young veterans? Most young veterans are selfless. We are your neighbors and friends. Most of us were willing to die for our country, so we are usually more than willing to help our community. Most young veterans right now are also combat veterans so I would want citizens to know that we did it so they didn’t have to.

Which historical military figure would you like to sit down and talk with? Lt. General Chesty Puller because he was one of the hardest Marines to walk the planet (and most decorated too).

Marines are sometimes called Devil Dogs. What’s the story behind that? The Germans called us Tuful Hun because of how hard the Marines fought in Belleau Wood which translates to Devil Dog.

What’s your favorite memory of your enlisted career? Stepping off the plane after my deployment to Iraq. It was a huge sense of accomplishment.

What’s the most patriotic you’ve ever felt? The most patriotic I ever felt was also the most scared I ever felt and that would be standing on the Yellow Foot Prints in Marine Corps Boot Camp. Becoming a Marine was the proudest moment of my life.

Which Marine affected your life the most? General Mattis, my drill instructors, and my staff sergeant in Iraq, and all my brothers and sisters in the Marines impact my life every day. That’s why we get to sleep in peace at night.

Any advice for future Marines heading to boot camp? You’re about to get a huge extended family of Marines who are willing to die for you, so give it your absolute best so they don’t have to.

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