Every year on November 11th, we honor the sacrifices military veterans have made for our country. For many past service members, the memories and sacrifices of their time in the military stay with them for the rest of their lives. Some of these recollections come in the form of physical or emotional wounds, making the adjustment back to civilian life harder. It is important for veterans going through these struggles to know that they aren’t alone. There are people and organizations, like Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, willing to support and help them with their new normal.
Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing is a nonprofit organization that started in 2005. The charity was established first for wounded military service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Just a year later, the name Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing became official and today, there are numerous programs throughout the country and in Department of Defense hospitals, Warrior Transition Units, and Veterans Affairs Medical Centers and clinics. All 50 states and Germany are home to all 206 of these programs. There are also affiliate programs in Canada and Australia. As for North Carolina, there are programs at Fort Bragg and Camp LeJeune, as well as Boone, Wilmington, Asheville, Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Swansboro, Durham, and Cherokee.
The programs are based around fly fishing, giving the service members a chance to spend time in the great outdoors. Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing partners with the Federation of Fly Fishers, Trout Unlimited, and individual fly fishing clubs to provide participants with a one-day fly fishing outing. Before the trip, volunteers lead classes at the Department of Defense or Veterans Affairs facilities on basic fly fishing skills, fly casting, fly tying, and rod building. Injured active military members and disabled veterans, both men and women, and all experience levels are welcomed. According to the organization’s website, “Participants range from beginners who have never fished before, to those with prior fly fishing and tying experience who are adapting their skills to their new abilities.” In addition, these events help provide physical and emotional rehabilitation to our military men and women through outdoor therapy. Most of the participants in the classes will experience the fly-fishing event together, allowing for a greater sense of camaraderie to develop.
The majority of programs and services through Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing are run by volunteers. There is a Board of Trustees and elected officers to oversee the organization, and each program has a Program Lead. Men and women are welcome to become volunteers, and can give their time to help provide transportation to the outings and classes, as well as provide meals, organize and manage classes, host an outing, or help with the fly-fishing gear and equipment. It is important to create a supportive and comfortable environment for the participants and volunteers, and be accommodating to the different learning needs of individuals in the programs. To become involved in this nonprofit, just contact your local program for available opportunities.
Along with volunteering, you can contribute to Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing in a variety of other ways. Individuals or groups can sponsor a trip, donate fishing equipment, offer meal or lodging discounts, or host a fundraiser. All of these ideas bring awareness to the organization and help get their mission out to the public. If you are interested in starting a program in your area, all you need is a fly fishing club willing to assist with volunteers, a Department of Defense or Veterans Affairs facility to host the program and classes, and injured military members or disabled veterans wanting to participate.
For the last 12 years, Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing has been making a difference in thousands of military members’ lives. They have provided our brave men and women with comfort as they start a new life after the military. If you know a military member or veteran who is hurt or disabled, and who loves the great outdoors, then this organization may be a perfect fit.
For more information on Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing and to donate, visit projecthealingwaters.org.
Written for Forsyth Woman magazine.