As we gather to reflect on and honor the sacrifices so many have made to preserve our freedoms and maintain our very special way of life, I am often asked, “what can I do to help our returning Veterans on their reintegration back into the lives they left before going to war?” In years past I advocated heavily for donations to the Wounded Warrior Project but new revelations have convinced me that they are in dire need of new management. Until that happens, I refuse to continue to support them. Instead, I encourage people to look into Project Healing Waters, an organization that is beyond reproach and continues to provide very special, unique, and life changing services to our Veterans.
Project Healing Waters is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and disabled veterans through fly fishing and associated activities, including education and outings. The first program was started at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. in 2005. The official name was established in the fall of 2006, and the organization was incorporated in the State of Maryland in 2007. Since then, PHWFF has expanded nationwide, establishing its highly successful program in Department of Defense hospitals, Warrior Transition Units, and Veterans Affairs Medical Centers and clinics.
The Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing program provides basic fly fishing, fly casting, fly tying and rod building classes, along with clinics. 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. All fly fishing and tying equipment is provided to the participants at no cost. Fishing trips, both one day and multi-day, are also provided free of charge to participants. PHWFF is unique in that our volunteers are teaching classes on an on-going, long term basis. It is much more than a one-day fishing trip. For many participants, particularly disabled veterans, the socialization and camaraderie of the classes are just as important as the fishing outings, and provide them a new activity.
Many of the 2.5 million veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have served multiple deployments, survived injury that would have killed them in earlier conflicts, and now cope with unprecedented mental and physical challenges. It is estimated over 48,000 servicemen and women have been physically injured in recent military conflicts and another 320,000 have experienced a traumatic brain injury while on deployment. As many as 400,000 additional service members live with the invisible wounds of war including combat-related stress, major depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
There are several ways you can help Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing. You can make a donation of cash on their website in the Donate page. You will receive a donation acknowledgment letter. If you have used fly fishing equipment or materials that you would like to donate, you can contact the Regional Coordinator for your area via their website in the Contact Us page. The Regional Coordinator will be able to put you in touch with the program closest to you or one in need of your equipment. You can also become a volunteer. Just contact the Regional Coordinator for your area via the website to get in touch with the program closest to you.
In 2014, more than 150,000 hours were donated by more than 2,800 PHWFF volunteers. This enabled more than 6,300 recovering warriors and disabled veterans to participate in PHWFF program activities. As the demand for services continues to grow, I humbly ask that if you can support in any way possible, please do.