National Social Media Assistant and Charlottesville, VA Assistant Program Lead 1SGT (ret) Ira Strouse recounts his time at the recent Virginia Fly Fishing & Wine Festival held on April 9 -10, 2016 in Doswell, Virginia.

There is a Latin phrase, “Facta, non verba” that translates to, “Deeds, not words”.  Through my military career we used that phrase frequently and it came to mind as I was leaving the 2016 Virginia Wine and Fly Fishing Festival in Doswell , Virginia.  Initially, as my family entered the facility I was struck by the number of people that showed support for Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Inc. by wearing hats, shirts, and pins which mirrored the vendors, who proudly announced their affiliation.  However, it was when we departed that I was struck by the sincerity of these people whom all had a desire to support our military members and veterans.

Before I go on I have to apologize.  I would like to be able to recognize everyone that I spoke to over that weekend but there are just too many.  Beau Beasley who brought this event to fruition invited some of the very best in the industry and their enthusiasm was contagious.  As I fielded questions about Project Healing Waters from our booth it was refreshing to hear the various stories from those stopping by who shared testimonies about the transformative nature of this organization.

A good place to start then is the first aisle where the Boy Scouts of America partnered with Project Healing Waters to offer scouts the opportunity to work towards the Fly Fishing Merit Badge.  Members of the Fort Belvoir PHWFF Program assisted Scout Master Pete Adams in teaching theScouts about the sport including how to tie various knots, how to tie flies, and how to set up equipment.  The Fly Fishing Merit Badge has a lengthy list of requirement but most boys left only needing to catch a fish in order to earn it.

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The Woman’s Forum, moderated by Wanda Taylor, was absolutely captivating.  The panel of eight fly anglers shared their inspirational stories that illuminate the restorative powers of nature and fly fishing.  While each member of the panel may have been representing a particular organization including Project Healing Waters, Temple Fork Outfitters, or their various personal businesses, it was apparent that in this field of endeavor that we are all intertwined.  Each member of the panel not only gave a testimonial but where observed over the course of the event giving freely of their time, knowledge, and experience with anyone that sought them out.  We may not know the results of the myriad conversations but be assured that these discussions were good for the individual, the various organizations, and for the sport.

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Also good for the sport is the Chairman of TFO, Rick Pope.  Rick has been a staunch supporter of Project Healing Waters and is another shining example of what makes this community great.  When Rick was asked by a veteran if there was anyone from his team that would teach his five year old to cast there was no hesitation.  Rick grabbed “the office rod”, left his booth, and went to a quiet part of the facility and personally gave a lesson.  I really think this is telling of the kind of leadership and compassion that we have in our ranks.

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Rick also made another person happy that day has he was asked to draw the winning ticket for our fundraiser.  At stake was a fly rod made by a team of Project Healing Waters participants from the Long Beach, California Program.  Demonstrative of the beautiful work was the Project Healing Waters logo used on the rod that was hand woven and took over 50 hours to complete.  In addition to this wonderful prize were tickets to our annual “2-Fly” event at Rose River Farms and a casting lesson from long-time supporter and fishing legend Lefty Kreh.

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Waring T. (Trible) and his daughter, Ella, obtained their raffle tickets early in the day and periodically swung by the booth in anticipation.  Every time they stopped by the booth, the Virginia Deputy Regional Coordinator, Jim O’Brien, spoke to Ella about the power of positive thinking.  When Rick drew Waring’s ticket it became apparent that there just may be some merit to this strategy.  Making the deal even sweeter Lefty volunteered to give an additional lesson to Ella.  Not a bad return on their investment.

I really think this is how it works and it doesn’t matter if you are coming to Project Healing Waters as a volunteer or participant.  You give a little, you get a lot.  It is my experience that there are few people in our community of anglers that withhold anything.  If you want to know a pattern, they will teach you.  If you want to improve your casting, they will show you.  If you need to get on the water, someone will take you.  Deeds, not words.