Hello. My name is Charlie Bombard. I am a proud U.S. Army veteran. I served from 1990-1993 during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm (The Persian Gulf War). Though I didn’t have any majorly bad experiences at my time in the Arabian Desert, and I was not fired upon, I did have experiences that had an effect on me that will likely last for the rest of my life.
When I returned from the Gulf I felt Great. I even re-enlisted before it was time, because I wanted a job change and to go to school. Anybody who re-enlisted at that time was given six months off to take a full time semester of college.
I married a lieutenant and my goal was to become an officer and make a career in the military. That came to an end very fast when less than 6 months later I started to show signs of mental and physical illness. I was having nose bleeds and stomach pains, rashes that turned out to be hives, anxiety, outbursts of rage and more. I was a soldier that was praised for my abilities to learn and to lead and help others (One Sergeant First-Class said I was “the best thing since sliced bread” ). When all of this started happening I not only was seeing doctors quite often, but I started showing up late for morning formations, disrespecting my chain of command and just losing all motivation for life.
Things kept getting worse but they couldn’t find medical reasons. They believed me but they didn’t know what to do but let me out of the Army honorably (with the words “failure to perform ” on my release form although).
At the Veterans Hospital (VA) shortly after I was discharged they found an ulcer; which is not very common for a 23 year-old. It wasn’t until ten years afterwards that I was diagnosed with PTSD and another 8 years before it was declared military related. At that time I was also diagnosed with Dissociative Amnesia. Let’s just say that the past 20+ years have been extremely hard on me and my family. If it were not for the strong love of my wife Allison, I would have surely experienced the loss of my family as many people with my disorders have. I went through so many jobs during those years. It was rare for me to keep one for more than one year. Six months was an accomplishment most of the time.
I am now 100% militarily related disabled thanks to the help of Disabled Veterans (DAV). I must say that I receive outstanding care at the Veterans Hospital at Castle Point, NY these days, and I really am grateful of the care I get from the doctors and staff.
That is enough about me though in that aspect. This blog is about another form of therapy for me. That is fly fishing and tying flies. I always liked to fish, but for some reason I felt a little scared to try a fly rod out. Perhaps it was because I am not very good at casting with a spinning reel and the fly rod appeared even harder.
I saw a documentary on television several years back about a group that used fly fishing as a form of therapy for disabled veterans. I never gave it much thought although, but was willing to try if someone would teach me as they seemed to take the time to do.
Then years later I found an old elementary and high school friend on Facebook and found that he taught fly fishing. He owns a guide service called Eastern (Easterntrophies.com). He told be that he volunteered for a group called Project Healing Waters. It sound like the same group I had heard about, but he lives in Virginia now, so again I paid it no mind because I couldn’t travel there.
It was not until about six months ago when I met a psychologist at the VA named Dr. Barbara Smith that I learned Project Healing Waters is international now and that there was one less than an hour drive from my home. So for the past 6 months I have been actively involved with them and it has brought joy back to my life that I didn’t think possible. If you are a veteran I highly recommend that you join your local group!
Since I have been there I have learn to fly fish and tie flies. They took me on a weekend trip to Roscoe, NY (a town known worldwide for its fly fishing). Now we are even learning to custom build our own rods. Spending time with other vets and civilian volunteers makes me look forward to the next meeting like a child waiting for Christmas.
I’d like to share what I learn about the sport and the way it is helping me and others. I will share links to other blogs, websites, videos, etc. that I find that you may be interested in learning from as well. I will keep comments open so more experienced people can add there wisdom. I’ll recommend good books, magazines, fishing experiences and more. One such site is The Quilted Tyer blog written by Nicole March. Nicole has amazing knowledge of the sport and is the volunteer that teaches at my group. I would love to someday have this blog half as organized as hers but we will see. I know I have the motivation anyway and that is much more than I had last July.
As you can see by the fly I made and framed in the cover photo, I am liking this for art as well. Although, when I sent a picture of it to my project leader Harry Kerrigan, he said that what I called an artistic fly was actually an outstanding version of an old English salmon fly. It Felt good as a beginner to be told I’m doing outstanding work.
Let me tell you something else. My hands shake as if I have Parkinson’s for another problem I have that can’t be figured out. In six months I have learned to not let that stop me from doing this at all. I have even heard of a guy that only has one hand that ties. At the first Healing Waters meeting I said that there was no way I’d be able to tie those tiny hooks trembling the way I do. By the second meeting though, I was fearless. Don’t let your fears or concerns hold you back. If you want to start fly fishing, start today and enjoy.
I hope that you enjoy my blog as well. I am disabled and stuck at home alone very often. I would love to comment back and forth with you.