Take a Warrior Fishing

Caesar Creek Lake, Waynesville, OH—The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the managers of Caesar Creek Lake, decided to put on a new event, Take a Warrior Fishing. They enlisted dozens of volunteers, many with boats, and helped the Veterans take a morning out on the lake fishing for the big ones.

At lunch time, everyone came back in for burgers, brats and hot dogs. There was much conversation, new friendships and an overwhelming sense of gratitude for our nation’s Veterans.

I was there as a representative of Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing – Cincinnati, but I also took my cameras. I captured many photos, but the one below is one of my favorites. In a way, it says it all. Everybody is smiling.

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Be well. See you on the highway.

Brent

Veterans Day 2012

National Cemetery, Dayton, Ohio.

Originally called Armistice Day, this day commemorates the end of World War I with the Treaty signed at the 11th hour of the 11th day on the 11th month of 1918. It was the war to end all wars. Veterans Day honors all Veterans who have served in the US Armed Forces.

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See you on the highway.

Brent

Pilgrimage to The Wall

Washington, D.C.

For some time, I have wanted to go to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. I have visited before, but have never visited with a mission. And so, riding to The Wall became my personal pilgrimage, and maybe closure. The proximity of the Moto Guzzi National Rally made it more possible.

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I left the Moto Guzzi National Rally one day early. My reason was the weather. It also meant that I was going to the memorial one day earlier than planned taxing my mental and emotional preparedness. It turned out to be a good decision. For that night, a storm rolled through the area downing trees and power lines. D.C., like many other cities, was in gridlock. I would never have been able to ride to The Wall if I had waited one day as planned.

Brent on guard dutyUncle Sam called me up for active duty in March, 1970; I was drafted. In November, I received orders for Vietnam and was home by Christmas on leave. In January, 1971, I went to Vietnam and was assigned to a Signal Corps unit on the Mekong River at Binh Thuy in the Can Tho Province, the 52nd Signal Battalion, HQ Company. In October, I received an early out and was home three weeks before my 21st birthday. When we processed out of Long Binh, we were ordered to turn in all our jungle fatigues. The only thing we could keep were our boots. We came home in khaki uniforms. I have kept those boots for 40 years.

You have probably heard many times that the soldiers returning from Vietnam were not treated so well. I can attest to that. What happened to our beliefs that all soldiers were welcomed home, just like in the movies about WWII. Not so Vietnam. But, time has changed that with military action and wars in the Middle East, and my personal mission to The Wall was born.

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I parked the motorcycle on the street next to the Potomac, about a half-a-mile from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I dug through my bags for the things I brought. After securing the bike, I started walking towards the memorial. I pulled out my phone and sent a message to my wife.

TXT: “I am parked and walking to The Wall.”

Lin: “My heart is with you love.”

I nearly lost it reading that text message from Lin. She is the incredible love of my life, I could feel her presence with me. I began to think of all the names on The Wall  and loved ones and family members who never got to express their love or even say goodbye. All that is left is an engraved name on The Wall, and the many objects left behind.

Planning this mission, I wanted to write something to my brothers and sisters on The Wall. I took a copy with me.

I walked the entire length of The Wall, looking at the names and occasionally leaning against the wall. The polished granite is remarkable, for you cannot look at this memorial without seeing yourself. I walked back to towards the middle and found an appropriate spot. I placed my 41-year-old boots on the curb and the copy of my prose behind it.

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Pilgrimage to the Wall

Like so many other veterans from the Vietnam War
I wonder why my name is not on this wall. Lucky, I guess.
I returned home with only memories and my boots.

So many names etched in stone
on a black granite wall
memorializing an unpopular war.

The experiences of those who returned
are burned into our memories
and have marked on our lives.

Good memories of friendships and a brotherhood of comrades,
bad memories of warfare, destruction and death.
Memories of coming home to an unappreciative nation.

Our country has learned a great lesson from us,
taught by our experience, the lessons of war and the returning soldier.
You on The Wall would be so proud.

We have learned to separate the politics of war from the warrior.
No matter the conflict, our soldiers are now treated as the heroes
that they are, and all are welcomed home.

Rest in peace brothers and sisters.
We think of you often.
You are missed.

# # #

More than forty years ago, I returned from that land that caused our nation so much grief and changed so many lives. I have come to pay homage to The Wall—a pilgrimage. I am returning my boots, for I no longer need them.

D. B. Miller, Sgt. E-5, US Army, Republic of Vietnam, 1971.

 I stepped back, saluted and then walked away.

TXT MSG to Lin: “Mission accomplished.”

As I walked away, I turned to look back. Visitors to the memorial were already starting to stop and read to see just what was left behind.

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Some photographed my boots. I heard one young boy say, “Look! Are those real boots?” Yes they are. They were mine. They belong to the memorial, now.

Rest in Peace Brothers and Sisters on The Wall, and Welcome Home to those who returned.

Peace be with you.

Brent

Note: Published on July 4th, Independence Day. Enjoy your freedoms.

The Joy of Catching a Fish

The local fly fishing group and Project Healing Waters has a regular schedule to go fishing at one of the county parks. It’s a pond on a children’s farm, and fishing is usually not allowed, but there are exceptions like for the kids and the Veterans group. Because the pond is not regularly fished, it has fish in it just waiting to bite on something. It makes for a good experience. And, it is all catch and release.

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The Veterans range in age and are veterans of too many wars—Vietnam, Iraq, Gulf War, Afghanistan. One is a Korean War Veteran. The mission of Project Healing Waters is to give Veterans a little R&R. It is amazing how disabilities disappear on the water with a fly rod or fishing pole in hand. Shaky hands become still. Troubles disappear for a little while.

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Willy was at the pond for his first fishing experience with the Veterans. Confined to a wheel chair, partially paralyzed, he needs help with just about everything. He has movement in his arm, but cannot grip your hand to shake it—that doesn’t stop him from introducing himself and sticking his hand out towards you. “Hi! I’m Willy.”

Willy cannot grip a rod, so we did like all good soldiers do, we improvised. We strapped the pole to his forearm, so that he could lift and lower the rod. Volunteers helped by baiting the hook and watching the rod for him. It was a team effort.

In what seems like the short time we were there, Willy caught more fish than anybody—eight! I guess the fish liked the piece of hot dog on a hook. Willy was happy, saying it was one of the best days he has had in a long time. I think his smile says it all.

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Of course, the rest of us had some success with the fly rods. In all, it was a pretty good day for all of us.

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See you on the highway.

Brent

Shall we gather at the river?

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When we help others, we sometimes help ourselves.

For more information about Project Healing Waters, visit their web site.

See you on the highway.

Brent

The Back Story

There is more to this personal essay, and it’s how it came about. I reviewed a documentary film last year called the Welcome, and I was haunted by the film–not in a bad way, but in a way to do something. It was like that voice in the bottom of my heart and soul that kept saying, “Well, Brent. What are you going to do now?” And, that voice would not leave me alone.

The premise of the film is about finding a way to welcome home the warriors–our veterans. I kept thinking about how I would use the motivation of this film to do something. I should do something. I am a veteran myself, a Vietnam Veteran. I should be helping my veteran brothers and sisters. It’s time to get involved somehow.

When I learned our fly fishing club, Buckeye United Fly Fishers, was involved with veterans programs, I investigated and joined the cause. That’s how I became involved with Project Healing Waters. It’s an incredible program. I don’t know if I would have been involved had I not seen that film. If you get the chance, you should see it too. You will be moved. –B.