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.

Brent-fly-fishing

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.

Review: “The Welcome” will move you to tears

I discovered the documentary film, The Welcome, in a regular e-Letter mailing from Poets & Writers magazine, of all places. What does a poetry magazine have to do with veterans? The answer came quickly. The title, Veteran Poetry, caught my eye and the movie trailer that accompanied the article’s description really grabbed my interest.

I called The Welcome Home Project, talked with producer Bill McMillan, and ordered a copy of the DVD. It arrived in just three days. I set it aside for a couple of days, leaving it in view on the kitchen counter and pondering when and where I would watch this film. Alone or with someone? I decided to watch it alone in the privacy of my writing space. I finally popped it into the DVD player of my laptop, with my headphones on. I expected to see a film that would be very moving. I did not expect to see something this powerful, having to pause it a couple of times to collect myself.

The Welcome begins with a poetry reading in an auditorium. A young woman soldier describes the effects of a car bomb during her deployment in Afghanistan. Fade to black. People are gathering in an Oregon rural retreat. The film takes you on a journey of coming to terms and addressing the issues faced by many veterans. It takes you through a gathering of veterans and a few family members trying to deal with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and “trying to come home.” The workshop, conducted by Michael Meade, The Mosaic Multicultural Foundation, leads the participants in sharing, building community, reflecting and writing with the plan to share their writings at a public venue only a few days away, to build a bridge to a larger community.

The Welcome Home Project

Meade poses the dilemma faced by veterans. The tradition of all cultures is to welcome home the warrior, but that is not happening in our society. There is a lapse of memory that warriors need to be welcomed back and to find a place in community as meaningful valuable citizens. He leads the discussion about differences and guides the veterans though building a temporary community with some common ground. It isn’t easy.

There are some tense moments in this film. War experiences differ. Even race comes into question. After an emotional, verbal confrontation between two veterans and an attempt at resolution, Vietnam Veteran Bob Eaton says, “You put twenty four veterans with PTSD in a room together, I think we’re  doing pretty good.  We’re not killing each other.”

As the film draws to its end, the veterans are reciting their poetry and stories in front of a sold-out audience in Ashland, Oregon, on Memorial Day. The power of this documentary will move you to tears, and hopefully bridge the understanding of what so many of our veterans have gone through after serving our country. If you have a chance to see it, or better yet sponsor a showing of this film, you must.

The producer’s thoughtfully provide a strong word of caution:

Thoughts on showing the film to a group:

Before showing the movie to a general audience we think it is important that you let the audience know a bit about the film and offer a few words of caution.  Due to the nature of the material discussed in the film it is not recommended for children under the age of 16 without parental supervision and approval.  The film contains strong language and some graphic descriptions of combat. Also, due to the language and discussion about the military and the impact of combat, some veterans and family members may react strongly to the viewing of this video.  You may want to offer information about local support and counseling services for veterans and family members viewing this film.

Here is the movie trailer:

For additional information and resources, visit The Welcome Home Project.

October 11, 2011, will be the 40th anniversary of my return from Vietnam. For 40 years, I seem to have been avoiding veteran’s issues. Having watched this profound movie, the question arises, “What am I going to do with this, now? How can I help?” After watching, you may have the same feelings and questions. All of us know a veteran—a family member, a friend, a spouse or loved one. Everyone can benefit from watching. It’s what you will do with the knowledge gained after the movie that will make a difference.

See you on the highway.

Brent

(Note: How appropriate that this review is posted on June 14th, Flag Day)

A special place in our hearts for Veterans

Lately, I have been bombarded from all sides with stories and issues for and about our veterans. Have you ever had one of those experiences where something just keeps coming up and you wonder why? Like God keeps kicking you in the butt, and you keep turning around to see what it was? And, you go kicking and screaming, digging in your heels trying to avoid it?

That’s what’s been happening to me lately. I told this story to a new acquaintance recently, someone who works with veterans.

Maybe we should call it synchronicity.

Today, I watched a documentary film, sent to me by this new friend, who is also one of the producers. This film is still moving through my mind and I am processing it. Oh, it’s not a hard film to understand. It’s just one powerful movie. Here’s what I wrote to him.

Bill, I watched your documentary this afternoon on my computer with a set of headphones on. I expected something very moving. I did not expect powerful. I had to pause a couple of times to collect myself. I think the scene that really got to me was Bob telling his story about Vietnam and then he ended … “I came home without a scratch.” Many of us, many of our veterans, our warriors have come home without visible scratches, but carry deep emotional wounds that very few will ever know.

I am going to write about this, perhaps a review, which means I will want to call and talk with you more—an interview.

I will be in touch.–Brent

I plan to follow up on this, and write a review, because if you get a chance to see this movie, this documentary film about warriors returning home, you must go see it.

I’m not giving away any details right now. I’ll be in touch.

Brent