Sunday, May 27, 2018

Veteran Peer Support and Healing Waters

Peer programs key to helping vets move forward
Metro Daily News
By Jeff Malachowski
Daily News Staff May 27, 2018
Young, who spent 42 years in the National Guard, served for 24 months in Iraq and said there was heavy fighting during his second deployment, which took its toll. Young learned of Project Healing Waters while on a group hike with Manson and felt the companionship of his fellow veterans would help be a distraction from his PTSD.
SUDBURY — The tranquility of a peaceful spring evening at Josephine Pond is a far cry from the battlefields of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Instead of hearing the pop of gunfire, more than a dozen veterans last week listened to the birds chirp and traded stories as they cast their lines into the small pond behind the Wayside Inn in hopes of landing a trout - a welcome respite for some of America’s heroes.

“It’s very rewarding and uplifting,” said George Kincannon, a retired Army first sergeant.

A national program with small chapters across the country, Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing brings together disabled veterans from all branches of the military twice a month for an evening of fly fishing and conversation that doubles as a form of rehabilitation. The organization is one of many aiming to ease the transition back to civilian life and help veterans deal with grief and loss they experienced while serving in combat.

“It’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in an activity that needs your focus and not think about anything else,” said Bill Manson, program leader for Project Healing Waters’ Fitchburg chapter. “It’s something that pays dividends.”

Many of the close to 20 veterans that participate in the Fitchburg chapter suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Joe Young, a retired sergeant major with the Massachusetts National Guard, is one of those veterans. He said spending an evening fishing and socializing with his fellow veterans keeps his mind away from his memories of the battlefield during two deployments to Iraq between 2003 and 2005.
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