Your Corner: US Military Veterans Find Common Ground on the Water

A fly fishing group is helping U.S. military veterans heal -- one line at a time

Fishing is the drug of choice, once a month, for one group in Santee that works with disabled U.S. military veterans.

“Everything else sort of disappears,” said Arthur Reifman, who works with Project Healing Waters to teach disabled vets how to fly fish.

“Every day they’re in therapies and treatments,” said Reifman. “This is an opportunity for them to step aside, and step back from that, even if for just a few hours, and completely let go.”

Project Healing Waters started in 2007 and now has 200 chapters nationwide, including the one in San Diego.

In 2016, the group logged more than 230,000 volunteer hours nationally and helped more than 7,500 veterans like Dallas Obergfell, an Army National Guard veteran from Montana.

Obergfell suffered a concussion from a bomb blast in Iraq and has felt the effects of it for years.

“It’s constantly there, even when you’re sleeping, it’s there. You got the night terrors and stuff, waking up in cold sweats,” he told NBC 7.

Marc Lavigne is another one of the vets that meet at Santee Lakes every month.  The Army veteran has been going through treatment for 20 years since a truck fell onto his head and neck.

He says fly fishing is not like any other therapy.

“It almost puts me back in control of things for a little bit,” said Lavigne. “It’s relaxing; it’s motivating; it helps with the stress. Everything else just kind of melts away.”

It’s not about catching fish.

“No. It doesn’t matter,” said Reifman. “Sometimes we come out here, and the fish don’t cooperate at all.”

“You don’t have any worries. It’s just you and Mother Nature enjoying time out here,” said Obergfell.

More than catching fish, or learning how to fish, a huge part of the treatment is camaraderie.  

“We’re there for each other to talk because not a lot of other people understand what we’re going through, other than another vet,” said Lavigne.

This group has found its common ground, on the water.

For more information on how to volunteer with PHW San Diego, click here

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