BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Carla McCluney knows what her son has been through and just how capable he is.
Although Brian McCluney has not been seen since Friday, his mother and the rest of his family are as optimistic as ever, reports News 6 partner Florida Today.
There's no reason yet to give up on the lifetime fisherman and Navy veteran who was born in Health First Cape Canaveral Hospital and grew up in Cocoa, Carla said.
Since the extensive manhunt was undertaken to find Brian, 38, a firefighter in Jacksonville, and his friend Justin Walker over the weekend, tens of thousands of square miles of Atlantic Ocean have been covered by the U.S. Coast Guard and civilian volunteers.
Walker, 33, is a Vero Beach native who works for the Fairfax County Fire Department in Fairfax, Virginia, where he lives with his wife. He graduated from Indian River Charter High School in 2004 before attending Palm Beach Atlantic University, where he befriended Brian's wife Stephanie.
She introduced the two and sparked their friendship.
Brian McCluney's tackle bag was found floating in the water around 50 miles off the coast of Jacksonville Monday, the only sign of the two boaters since they left Port Canaveral in a center console fishing boat Friday.
McCluney played football at Merritt Island High before graduating in 2000 and eventually joining the Navy.
For the past six years, Brian has worked for the Jacksonville Fire Department in Jacksonville, where he lives with his wife Stephanie and children, 8-year-old Brynn and 6-year-old Connor.
On top of receiving extensive survival training in the Navy, the Brevard native did two tours of duty in Iraq and was awarded a Purple Heart when he was struck by a piece of shrapnel overseas, his mother said.
Carla McCluney sees it all as a testament to her son's toughness and resolve, giving her and her family cause to remain optimistic during the extensive search.
"Fishing was always his outlet," she said. "When he got back from Iraq that was how he handled things from all he had been through."
Brian McCluney had lost his father over the summer and the family was soon planning to sell the boat when Brian and Justin took it out last week, she said.
Taking the vessel out on one last excursion was not only a way to connect with his father but was meant to be a kind of therapy for him as well, Carla McCluney said.
"This was a way he was trying to help himself deal with his father's passing," she said.
She said she has been astounded by the sheer amount of help pouring in from across the state during the search for her son.
"I just have so much gratitude," she said. "How am I ever going to be able to thank all of these people who are just giving of themselves and their time and money?"
"It shows you what people in this country do when there's a need. It's a positive thing from a bad situation."