SPC Garth A. Pepion, US Army, Iraq
I was born and raised in Bandon, Oregon, and graduated high school in 1987. I first joined the military in 1987 as a Calvary Scout and spent three years at the NTC at Fort Irwin, CA. I then left the military at that time and spent time working as a cheese maker in Oregon. I decided to re-enlist back into the Army in 2007. I came back in as a supply specialist and went to 1-2 Inf. in Germany and deployed to Iraq with that unit at the end of 2008 to 2009. In March of 2010 I PCS’d to a patriot unit, also in Germany. In 2011 my unit went on a training exercise in Poland for 30 days where towards the end I started getting really bad chest congestion. After returning to Germany, I went to hospital where they told me that I had pneumonia and they gave me antibiotics, but my pneumonia just progressively worsened. I was then hospitalized and MedEvac’d to Walter Reed because I went into respiratory and kidney failure. That life changing event damaged my kidneys for the rest of my life. After several months of being at Walter Reed, Walter Morse came to our formation and told us about Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing. It was something I had never even thought about doing before. After my first fishing trip at Rose River Farms, I knew I had found something that would relax me and get my mind off my medical issues and having fun at the same time. Since then I have been on several trips this last year and loved every minute of it! Garth has been paired with Pro-Guide John Gay.
SPC (ret) Andrew Pike, US Army, Iraq
Andrew was born in Dallas Texas on December 20, 1985. Shortly after Andrew and his family moved to Kimberly, Idaho where he graduated from the Kimberly School District. After graduation in 2004 he enlisted in the United States Army and shipped out for boot camp in December of that year. Following basic and advanced training, Andrew then attended Airborne school where he was then stationed with the 1-505 Parachute Infantry Regiment in the 82nd Airborne Division, which was in training for an upcoming deployment. In August of 2006 his unit deployed to Bayji, Iraq. He served there for 8 months conducting routine patrols, counter ambush, and counter mortar missions while helping his unit prepare the Iraqi police to take over operations in their city.
On March 26, 2007 Andrew was walking on a foot patrol when a sniper round impacted him. It hit him in the front of his vest, and exited out his back an inch from his spinal cord. The round destroyed his left kidney and some small intestine while instantly paralyzing him from the chest down. From there he was flown to Kirkuk for two days, Germany for two days, and was then transferred to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He was at Walter Reed for two months, and then was transferred to the Seattle VA Spinal Cord Injury Unit to complete his rehab. After a month of rehab he was discharged to go home.
Now Andrew has a daughter who is 5 years old, and is working in Boise, Idaho where he shoots sporting clays, hunts, fishes, plays basketball, skis, and enjoys as many outdoor activities as possible. He has adapted to his injuries quickly and just tries to enjoy each day. Andrew has been paired with Pro-Guide Bryan Wilson.
SGT (ret) Michael Davis, USMC/US Army, Persian Gulf/Iraq
I was in the Marine Corps from 1987 to 1992 during the first Gulf War I was doing port operations in Okinawa, Japan off-loading ships. After the Marines I joined the Army in 1998 and served there to 2005. I served in the second wave into Iraq as a combat engineer. Our assigned area was Sader City and we conducted infrastructure recon and assisted EOD in IED and cache removal. I was injured by an IED on route arrows followed by a fire fight. Michael has been paired with Pro-Guide Gavin Robinson.
SFC Aaron Greene-Morse, US Army, Kuwait
Sergeant First Class Aaron Greene-Morse grew up in Walla Walla, WA and joined the US Army in 1995. She was trained as an Intelligence Analyst and has been assignment in Georgia, Colorado, Maine, New Jersey and Maryland. Sergeant First Class Aaron Greene-Morse deployed to Kuwait as an Intel Analyst during the Operation Southern Watch; 1996 and1999. She also participated in Operation Desert Fox in 1998. She continued her career as a leader in several different intelligence organizations; National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, NSA Training and Education Division and the Army Technical Control and Analysis Element. Sergeant First Class Greene-Morse has been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and will be continuing her treatment at Walter Reed National Medical Center. She lives with her husband Sergeant First Class (RET) Walter Morse and their daughter Paige. Her awards include the Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Joint Meritorious Accommodation Award and the Joint Meritorious Service Award and numerous others. Aaron has been paired with Pro-Guide Kiki Galvin.
MSG Scott Beaudry, US Army, Iraq/Afghanistan/Kuwait
As a Soldier for over 26 years, all as a Military Policeman, I served in a variety of positions both in the National Guard and abroad. All of my assignments presented varying degrees of challenges both professional and personal. Whether it was in my early years as a M60 Machine Gunner or in the later years as First Sergeant of a Headquarters, Headquarters Company or my final assignment as the CHOPS Operations NCOIC in a MP Brigade, I enjoyed being a Soldier. After several deployments to Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan, my career was catching up to me; my most challenging mission lied ahead. In March 2011, I arrived at Fort Meade Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) after spending a month in an inpatient program for PTSD and a back injury. At Fort Meade I continued rigorous outpatient therapy and learned to become more self-sufficient and independent. One day, while at the Soldiers and Family Assistance Center, my counselor mentioned “a fly fishing program called PHWFF,” and asked if I was interested. Coming from New England and being an avid angler, I was very interested. I arrived one Thursday night and I’ve been “hooked” ever since. I’ve been on several trips and have spoken to countless guides and fellow anglers. No matter what the ailment is or where you came from, we all have one thing in common, CATCH FISH! Scott has been paired with Pro-Guide Colby Trow.
LCpl Ryan Wightman, USMC, Afghanistan
LCpl Ryan Wightman was born in Orange Park, Florida, on June 5, 1990. He enlisted in the Marine Corps on May 11, 2009 and attended MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina. During his training he was promoted to squad leader which led to him becoming Private First Class meritoriously. After graduation, Private First Class Wightman attended the Marine Corps School of Infantry in Camp Geiger, North Carolina. He was assigned the MOS of 0311, Marine Corps Rifleman. He was assigned to Weapons Company, Scout Sniper Platoon, in 1st Battalion 8th Regiment. He was stationed in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where he was promoted to Lance Corporal on April 1, 2010. His first deployment was September 1, 2010-March 25, 2011, in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. Upon returning from his deployment, he married his wife, Melissa on March 29, 2011. In July 2011, LCpl Wightman was transferred to Charlie Company, 1st Platoon. On January 7, 2012, he deployed once again to the Helmand Province of Afghanistan, only this time his deployment was not as successful as the last. On May 26, 2012, while trying to help a fallen Marine he was wounded by an improvised explosive device. On June 1, 2012, he arrived at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where he now currently resides and is trying to heal.
His military awards include: Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal x2, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon x2, National Defense Service Medal, NATO Medal – ISAF Afghanistan, Navy Unit Commendation. Ryan has been paired with Pro-Guide Harold Harsh.
SN David Conklin, Navy
My choice of service was easy. Like my father and brother, I chose the United States Navy. Hoping to somehow make a difference, I would make the Navy my home. After an extended bout with Spinal Meningitis, I was left with severe short term memory loss and other physical problems. On an almost a daily basis, I look at other vets and realize how lucky I am. Having been with Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing for three and half years, I have had the unusual privilege of being on both sides of the fence, volunteer and participant. As a participant I have received some very fine fishing equipment, some fantastic fishing trips, such as Montana. But I have received something far more valuable then these tangible items. I have received someone's time; time that was freely given by volunteers. Time is something they can never get back or replace. As a volunteer I have received even more. I have seen eyes regain interest in life and lips that are free to laugh. What I have witnessed is that Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing is a remarkable organization! David has been paired with Pro-Guide Rob Snowhite.
Col (ret.) Chandler “Chan” Crangle, USMC, Vietnam
I was raised in San Diego; enlisted in US Navy in 1960; and was qualified in submarines (Petty officer 2d Class (E-5) Electronics Tech). I was selected for NESEP (college scholarship) then graduated from University of Utah & commissioned 2dLt (infantry) in Marines 1966. But the smartest thing I ever did was marry Robinette L. Wootten in 1965. That lead to the greatest kids Tori (‘66) & Rick (‘68) & Grandkids: Emma (‘02), Maddy (‘03) & Drew (‘04)). I was RVN 1967-1968 w/ Company M, Infantry Platoon Leader, Weapons Company CO, 3d Bn, 26th Marines – Khe Sanh, Con Thien, Thua Thien Province, I Corps. I served as a Recruit Series Officer, Recruit Depot San Diego, then was RVN 1971-1972, Company CO, 1st MP Bn, Danang. In between two tours in the rice paddies, finished Law School, University of San Diego, ‘74 (I intended to leave active duty – but HQMC kept dangling interesting billets & bride Robin did not object to the military life, officer wives still wore big hats & gloves back then. My career continued with another lawyer tour at Recruit Depot San Diego (mostly defending DI’s …); senior lawyer at Disciplinary Barracks, Ft Leavenworth, KS; Command & Staff College, Quantico; Military Judge; staff officer w/ Advanced Amphibious Studies Group at Quantico; G3 (Plans), III MAF, Okinawa, Panama as lawyer & Executive Officer to CINCSOUTH, 1988-1989, Naval War College, Newport RI; SACLANT (NATO), Norfolk. 1992-1997: Headquarters Marine Corps as Chief, Strategy & Plans. I finally called it quits in 1997- but did several stints after as a contractor & USMC Civil Service. My personal decorations include Legion of Merit, Bronze Star (Combat V), 2x Purple Hearts, Combat Action Ribbon, Army & Navy Commendation & a bunch of “I was there” ribbons. Chandler has been paired with Pro-Guide Phil Gay.
CPT Andrew Roberts, US Army, Iraq
Andy Roberts is a West Point graduate and a former Army Captain who served as a battery commander in Iraq from 2003-2004. In Iraq, he led Bravo Battery 1-17FA which provided direct support to 1-10 CAV, "Buffalo Soldiers" of the 4th Infantry Division. In Iraq, Roberts eventually became responsible for the small city of Balad Ruz in Diyala Province and served as liaison with the local government and oversaw the training of the local police and National Guard.
Roberts left the Army in 2004 and after the initial excitement of coming home he found himself struggling to adapt to life after Iraq. He had many of the symptoms of post operational stress including hyper-vigilance, high startle response, mood swings, anger, isolation and a loss of purpose and mission. He realizes now he was suffering from an invisible wound of war- he didn’t realize it then.
Three years later, volunteer work and therapy were helping him get back on to a healthier path but he credits Project Healing Waters with much of his recovery. He met great people with similar interests, he got out into nature, and he found a passion that helped him truly enjoy living life again. Roberts has committed himself to veterans advocacy and works for the North Shore-LIJ Health System as the Director of Military and Veterans Liaison Services. He is also the Program Lead for the New York City chapter of PHWFF and has fished the salt all over the East Coast and rivers in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Colorado, Virginia, Montana and Wyoming. Andrew has been paired with Pro-Guide Brian Trow.
PFC Jesse Garza, US Army, Vietnam
Jesus (Jesse) M. Garza born October 15, 1945, Weslaco, Texas. My family moved to Selma, California summer of 1960. I graduated from Riverdale Hi in Riverdale CA. June 1965. November 18, 1965 I was drafted by the US Army in Fresno CA. Ft. Ord by Monterey, CA was my fist station for boot camp. Two and a half weeks later a break out of Spinal Meningitis was discovered in Fr. Ord. I and other troops were sent to Ft. Hood, Texas for boot camp. January 1966 after boot camp I was assigned to Ft. Lewis, Washington for AIT to the 4th Infantry Division 1/22 Infantry. June of 1966 we were told we were going to a country called Vietnam. August 1966 we were headed to Vietnam on the troop ship USS Walker as a battalion with other ships. We shipped out of Seattle Washington. The last thing I could see as the ship sailed out from port was the Space Needle in Seattle. Today and every time I see a movie or pictures of the needle I get flashbacks of that day I had no control of my life whether I would see the needle again or not. It is hard to see the Space Needle and the Vietnam wall and not think of why me and not my brothers on the wall. There isn’t a day that I am not reminded of my past and wonder why. I am fortunate to be married to the same woman of 42 years. I tell her almost every day that she is an Angel for putting up with me all this time. Drugs, booze and smoking was with me daily. I have three children and 5 grandchildren which are the love of my life. I no longer do drugs, drink or smoke for the past 18 years because of the Love for my family and just life. I have been involved with PHWFF since 2009. I joined through the Long Beach Casting Club. I’ve been fortunate and blessed to fish in places that otherwise would not be able too. Learning how to build a rod and tie flies has been a great source of therapy for me. PHW has given me a chance to be at peace for a day or days at a time in the water. Using my mind, body and hands in concentrating on a fish that is at the end of my line, and for those minutes not feel any pain or outside thoughts other than bringing in the fish into my net. As PHW has given me so much and more then I deserve. Today I do not just participate as a disable veteran. I give back by being the liaison for our Regional Coordinator Carole Katz and the vets in Long Beach, CA. I am also a member of the Veterans Advisory Council. Jesse has been partnered with Pro-Guide Michael Hatfield.
LCpl Lonny Andrews, USMC, Vietnam
My name is Lonny Andrews. I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado and spent 30 years in Aurora, Colorado after I got out of the Marine Corps. I attended college for three years before entering the Marine Corps. While in the Marines I worked as an electrician and my MOS was field radio operator. I spent one tour in Vietnam.
After serving my country I came back to Colorado and got a job with Gates Rubber Company as lab technician. I worked there for 34 years until I retired. I volunteered for the boy scouts for 20 years. After retirement I worked for the Boy Scouts for three years. I was very fortunate to see both of my sons join Scouting and both became Eagle Scouts.
I started with Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing while with the Denver VAMC. I started with fly tying with the Denver PHWFF program. I spent almost a year with the program there and then transferred to the program in Colorado Springs, where I have lived for the past five years. Since joining the program in Colorado Springs I have become a member of the Veterans Advisory Council. I am now working to recruit veterans at the Colorado Springs VA clinic. I have also taught in the beginner fly tying class.
I am now married to by wonderful wife Donna. She has supported me and encouraged me to continuing working with PHWFF. I also have a hobby making fused glass jewelry. I have been working in a floral shop. I deliver flowers and am learning to make floral arrangements. Lonny has been partnered with Pro-Guide William Heresniak.
SSG (ret.) Rhonda Burleson, US Army , Afghanistan
My family has been in Western North Carolina for many generations. I am Rhonda Christine Burleson, daughter of Carl Donald Burleson, the former General Manager of Biltmore Estate, who is now deceased, and Kay, homemaker. I joined the Army in 1983 as a Military Policeman & Corrections. I was stationed in Kansas, Korea, and Kandahar. I was also stationed in Boone, North Carolina as a National Guard Recruiter. I have two AS degrees and a BS in Health and Wellness. Army Achievements - SWAT, developed 1st minimum security facility for female military offenders, NBC NCO, RRT, and Enemy Prisoner of War Guard, Kandahar 2002. Was activated Christmas Eve 2001. Living in hometown of Asheville, North Carolina since returning from war. Rhonda has been paired with Pro-Guide Eric Stroup.