OWENSVILLE – They came from Korea and the Bay of Pigs. From Viet Nam and Desert Storm. From serving stateside and in the War on Terror.
U.S. military veterans arrived at Pattison Park July 3 to fly fish. Project Healing Waters organized the event for a dozen vets and nine volunteers.
Many vets face struggles – physical or otherwise – after leaving the military. Project Healing Waters teaches them to fly fish to promote physical activity for injured bodies, as well as calm and focus for anxious minds.
Healing Waters has twice-monthly fishing trips for interested vets. The project “is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and disabled veterans through fly fishing and associated activities,” according to its website.
The group recently added monthly Saturday fishing trips for vets who are working and has hosted women-only veteran fishing groups, too.
“They’ve discovered casting is a very good way to exercise the upper body,” said Jeff McElravy. President of Buckeye United Fly Fishers, a sponsor organization for Healing Waters. “If you have waders, you have people learning to stand and balance again. You have your social groups and interactions. It’s all helpful.”
Healing Waters regional coordinator Brent Miller – who served in Viet Nam courtesy the first-ever draft lottery – noodled around with fly fishing after his discharge more than 40 years ago. He got serious about it in 2006 when he joined Buckeye United and has been part of Healing Waters for 6.5 years.
“I know something about coming home and maybe not knowing exactly what to do once you get there,” Miller said. “It’s a good program. Several times I’ve heard vets say, ‘The program saved my life.’ That’s powerful and that’s why we do it.”
July 3 marked the group’s first visit to a Clermont County Park District property, but Miller said it probably won’t be the last.
“I think this is great facility for our program,” he said. “Its handicapped accessibility and the dock, the paved walk around the pond, the vets can get on the water. There’s something about the nature – I’d even say the spirituality – of being on the water. It’s just calming.”
Brian Loomis agreed. Loomis – a Navy vet who spent a year in the Arabian Sea during Desert Storm – was at his fifth fly fishing event so far this year.
“It’s a relaxing event, calm and peaceful,” he said. “I just love the water. The guys here are awesome, really friendly. You can talk to them about anything. We experienced different things, but we all have a history. It’s an unspoken bond.”
“We are proud Healing Waters chose the Clermont County Park District,” said Community Relations Manager Mark Motz. “We would be happy to have them any time, but it’s especially nice they would come so close to Independence Day.
“We are grateful to have men and women who sacrifice so we can continue enjoying the freedoms established by the Declaration of Independence 242 years ago. It was nice to visit and thank them for their service.”
Mark D. Motz is the Community Relations Manager for the Clermont County Park District. A native Cincinnatian, he has worked for more than 25 years as an award-winning journalist and public relations professional. Away from work, he enjoys photography, theater and spending time with his nine godchildren.