George DraperRegional Coordinator, New England

I was born in Maine and grew up in a little town called Greene.  I signed up for the Army on August 3, 1976.  After basic training I served at Ft. Devens, Mass. with the 39th Combat Eng. and did some training with the 10th Special Forces.  Then I went to Germany to the 317th Combat Eng. for three years.  Training myself to run long distance, I would get up a 3am and run from 12-18 miles a day. Therefore, I was selected to run for the Army and did my first marathon at the 1st International Frankfort Germany Marathon.  Every weekend I had off, I ran two half marathons.

While in Germany I was able to attend two leadership courses -BNCOC and ANCOC.  I volunteered for any other courses available and as a result, I got to do a wide variety of jobs while in the Army.  One I really found interesting was S-2, Recon Sergeant, where I got to do background investigation for security clearances, and teaching Soviet Equipment and related classes to the Battalion.   When I came back stateside to Ft Campbell, KY to the 20th Combat Eng., I  worked in S-3 training putting together training schedules and grading the classes being presented.  To be able to do this required a lot of classes for me to be qualified.  I went through the 101st Airborne Air Assault School and then took the Repel Master course.  These were very tough courses and I loved every bite of it.  I had an accident while repelling from the helicopter which had a malfunction with the gear and that was the beginning of my spinal cord injuries.  It took a long time to recover from that.  I went on to Drill Sergeant School after and became a DI and at Ft Leonard Wood MO.  I had made the E-7 list and was taking some college courses.  At the age of 45 my father passed away, leaving my mother with two young brothers with disabilities. Afterwards, I felt I was needed more at home at the time and got out of the service.  Fifteen months after being out of the service my back gave out and I couldn’t walk or stand up so I went through a few lower back surgeries and a neck surgery.  Then 2005 I was about to get married in nine days and was going into the VA for an appointment I got rear ended and had broken everything in my back, neck and shoulder.  Again I went through another long series of surgeries with two plates in my neck, two rods in my lower back up to my rib cage.  This left me pretty much with nothing to do but look out the windows.  I took some Adult Ed classes for drawing and painting.  Then a friend of ours told me about Fly Tying.  I never fly fished before so didn’t have a clue.  He loaned me a video of Joan Wulff fly fishing.   I looked for a class and took up Fly Tying.  During this time I was attending pain clinic classes at the VA. which led me to PHWFF and from there it has been a new world for me from never coming out of the house or yard to being so busy I can’t find enough time to get to everything I’ve learned.  I find the busier I stay the better it is to keep my mind off the pain.  What a great thing to have and to share it with veterans!  I’ve joined TU and try to help teach kids and anyone that wants to know.  I’m a firm believer in giving back and passing it forward.