The Luckiest Fisherman in America
By: Joseph Simonds on March 27, 2015
Picture yourself over in Iraq back in 2007.
And then picture yourself driving around in a Humvee with three other Air Force personnel on a routine mission when all of a sudden it happens…
A roadside bomb explodes right next to your Humvee…
An explosion so powerful that it sends shrapnel through the window of the armored Humvee…
An explosion so powerful that the shrapnel enters your head and neck…
An explosion so powerful that it almost kills you, sends you into a coma, and erases days of your memory…
All while serving to protect the freedom of others back home in America…
This is Scott’s story.
Wounded Warrior Scott Lilley’s Story
As Wounded Warrior Scott Lilley told me all of details of his near-fatal incident in Iraq (all of it passed back to him through Air Force reports and hospital reports as he lost 100% of his memory during the few days before, during, and after the explosion in Iraq), I couldn’t help but get a bit emotional myself…
Here are the general details of his story (as told by Scott to me).
After Scott was injured by an explosion next to his Humvee that day, he just happened to have a medic in the Humvee with him that saved his life by giving Scott detailed attention and medicine to keep him alive before being transported to the closest hospital.
Upon seeing Scott’s condition, most doctors didn’t think he even had a chance to live…
But one doctor took a chance on Scott and had him moved to a better hospital in Germany.
By this time Scott was in a coma-like stage and wasn’t responding to anything.
His parents were notified that Scott was most likely not going to make it more than a few days, and that they should try to come to Germany as soon as possible to see him one last time.
Scott’s mother asked if she could just talk to him via a speakerphone so he could just hear her voice (he was in a coma at this point and had no signs of movement), and upon hearing his mother’s voice, Scott showed signs of response for the first time in a few days.
And according to Scott, his mother’s voice was the very first thing he remembers after coming out of his coma like state.
After numerous surgeries on his skull to get the shrapnel out, Scott still has pieces of shrapnel in his head, and a huge chunk of his skull and skin around the head have been replaced.
The Luckiest Wounded Warrior I Know
Scott knows that he is lucky to be alive.
He even shared with me a very vivid dream that he had while he was in a coma where he ascended upwards in the clouds, and was met by an angelic person in a chair of clouds that told Scott,
“This isn’t your time. Go back and prosper.”
You can just imagine how many goose-bumps I had on my arms as Scott was reliving all of this and telling me his dream in detail.
Now, a handful of years later, Scott is living life to the fullest, as he is grateful for every single day God gives him.
He pursues everything with a smile (as you can see from the videos), and not once in four days did I hear a negative thing come out of Scott’s mouth.
And the grin, the laughter, and the twinkle in his eye when he talked about the huge snook he caught made this entire month worth it in and of itself.
The guy is full of love and passion…and for a guy that has to take medicine to keep his brain awake, he has more energy than most people I know.
Watching Scott and hearing what he went through makes you appreciate every day just like he does.
It’s so easy for us to get caught up in the stresses of life, in the daily grind, and ignoring all of the wonderful people and beautiful things that God has blessed us with…
I saw an almost “child like” love and wonderment of everything going on around him in Scott.
And it made me smile…and it made me take a step back and start appreciating everything and everyone in my life.
So in reality, we learned just as much from Scott about embracing each day than he did learning how to catch a fish from us.
Even though Scott’s mind has completely blacked out the day that he was injured, he still has many scars that remind him every day of what happened while in Iraq.
And as I mentioned earlier, he still has pieces of shrapnel lodged in his head.
Scott even told us about the replica he has of his entire skull (minus the huge chunk of his head that the doctors had to remove to get the shrapnel out) to remind him of how lucky he is to be alive.
And he even had the courage to make a trip back to Iraq to see the area where the bomb went off!
Talk about a man that isn’t afraid of anything!
Today, he is back in the states working for the military in San Antonio (he was forced to medically retire from the Air Force due to his injury), and he has a wonderful family (an amazing wife, an adorable 3-year old daughter, and older step-daughter).
The only major side affects are that he must take medication daily to keep his brain awake or he will fall asleep.
And as you can imagine, this potent drug comes with some major side affects such as no appetite (Scott only has an appetitive to eat once per day due to this drug that he must take to keep him up and active).
He also found out from the doctors some pretty alarming news…
The shrapnel that they had to leave in his head was for a specific reason.
It simply can’t be moved…
In fact, if the shrapnel in his head moves too much, he will instantly die.
Pretty scary scenario.
Shortly after he told me about the life-ending shrapnel still lodged in his head, I heard his recent story about a teenage girl rear-ending him going almost 50 miles per hour while he was at a stop light.
Clearly Scott lived, and by some act of God the shrapnel did not move in his head during the collision.
So Scott must either be the luckiest guy alive, he must have the best guardian angel, or he must have 9 lives…
Which brings me to my next point about Scott…
The Luckiest Fisherman in America
Fact: Wounded Warrior Scott Lilley can catch some fish!
The day of Scott and Brandon’s (one of Scott’s best friends that accompanied him on the trip) arrival, Luke and I were discussing a game-plan regarding where we were going to take them fishing each day, what kind of fish we hoped to get them on, etc.
All we knew from a previous phone call was that Scott had only caught one salt water fish in his entire life (a shark).
He didn’t know what a snook was, he didn’t know what Inshore Fishing was (which is what we are best at), and he had no idea what a “flats boat” was.
So Luke and I agreed it would be great just to get him on a small snook or two, then some sheepshead, perhaps a few hard fighting jack, etc…
But Scott had other plans…
He caught monster fish, after monster fish, after monster fish…
Here is the awesome video our boy Andrew put together of Scott’s first 3 hours on the island (and no, that is not a typo, this is just from his first 3 hours, not first 3 days).
Side Note: Scott’s friend Brandon Claussen (ex-pro baseball player) was one heck of an angler as well, not to mention one heck of a stand up guy.
We enjoyed every minute of getting to know Brandon (and to see his face light up every time he had a fish on as well).
I will show the rest of the daily highlight videos from each day next…
Why Salt Strong is Lucky To Call Scott a Friend
When Luke and I decided to create this March Fishing Madness: Warrior Strong, our goals were three-fold:
- To give back some of our time and energy to someone that risked their life for us
- To create an amazing and over the top experience for a Wounded Warrior
- To raise money and awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project and all Wounded Warrior charities out there.
Little did we know a 4th objective would come into play while we did this event.
Luke and I gained not one, but two new friends in the process (Scott and his buddy Brandon).
And I don’t just mean friendship is some “fluffy” sense.
I am talking about a real bond and a real connection that we made with these guys.
Something that you can’t capture on camera.
Something that you can’t put into words.
So much so in fact, that Luke and I are already starting to plan a future trip with Scott and Brandon (and hopefully their entire families), regardless if it is an event like this trip was, or if it is just a group of friends doing something fun together.
We couldn’t have prayed hard enough for God to have placed two more perfect individuals into our lives this month, and we are incredibly grateful for our time bonding with them.
Scott is the Ultimate Warrior.
He is Warrior Strong.
He is Salt Strong.
And we are proud to call him a Friend.
“Attitude is Everything”
On day 3 of our fishing journey with Scott, he said something on the boat that I won’t forget…
“Attitude is Everything”
So simple, yet so profound, so true, and such powerful words to live by.
It is Scott’s mantra when he wakes up every morning and has to take his medicine to keep his brain awake…
It is Scott’s manta when he forgets things…
It is Scott’s mantra when he sees the scar that reminds him he has a huge chunk of his head missing…
It is Scott’s mantra when he spends time and communicates with his wife and young daughter…
And it is Scott’s mantra as he lives each day as if it were his last…
What I came away with from this trip is that if each one of us can emulate Scott’s love and appreciation for living every day like it was your last (as Scott does), the world would be a much better place.
It would be a world with more Love…
It would be a world with more attention to what really matters and less time addicted to giving your phone more attention than your friends and family (by the way Scott never once carried a phone with him during the 8-10 hours days we fished)…
It would be a world filled with appreciation, a world with no tolerance for complaints, a world with no hate, and a world with solid relationships and experiences that matter…
Thank you for sharing your enthusiasm and love for each day with us Scott.
It was four days we will never forget.
And because of you, we feel like we are the luckiest fishermen in America…
Scott and Brandon, you guys had more of an impact on our lives than you will ever know…
Scott, thank for serving our country and for reminding us what really matters in life…
The Luckiest Fisherman in America’s Fishing Highlights by Day
Day 1 – March 21st
Day 2 – March 22nd
Day 3 – March 23rd
Day 4 – March 24th
For more on this incredible event for a great cause, check out the dedicated site that has our “daily video journal” highlighting everything we did at this March Fishing Madness: Warrior Strong page