It seems like everywhere you look you can find an American veteran. Last I heard although, we only make up for about 10% of our country’s population. I have a few hats that I wear, shirts and even a Project Healing Waters jacket letting people know that I am one of that few that have served. Until recently I wore one saying “Disabled American Veteran” but it only led to questions about my disabilities that I’m not comfortable sharing with strangers. The goal for this page as you know is to keep people informed of how the sport of fly fishing has a healing affect for us as disabled veterans. This article is no different. It includes gifts that I received through Healing Waters, but it’s also more broadly about the appreciation civilians show veterans in this country and also the veterans appreciation of them and of their care of us.
I’ve had people shake my hand as if I were a movie star; thanking me for my service just because they saw a hat on my head saying that I am a veteran. Some honk their horns giving me a thumbs up after reading my veteran bumper stickers (which sometimes isn’t good with my PTSD,because it startles me). Some stores and restaurants show appreciation to veterans. Here in New York, we have free access to state parks if 40% disabled or more and our hunting/fishing licenses are free. We’re always treated like kings on Veterans Day, Memorial Day (though that is a day for those who lost their life), and Independence Day. It is people like this that make me feel great about having had serve this great country of ours.
I must say that the children are the ones I love most. Some say it is related to my PTSD (that children represent innocence). I can believe that. I just love seeing them waving flags as veterans parade by (as in the picture above) or the way they don’t hesitate to run up to a soldier to hug them. When I was in Saudi Arabia and Iraq I made sure to write letters back as often as possible to the children who wrote letters to us. When sitting in the waiting room at the VA their are usually little drawings and cards to read from kids as I wait. Even though I am not mentally whole, worse things could have happened to me while serving this country. The people who show appreciation (especially the children) help me to know that serving was the right choice for me.
Unfortunately although, you have people who take the direct opposite stance. People who ask “Why on earth would you choose to serve?” I like the bumper sticker that I have seen on occasion that reads ” If you don’t want to stand behind our troops, then feel free to stand in front of them”. That sticker sums my feelings up well. I just do not understand why some Americans can be so hateful toward America and its military. I can understand not liking war. I don’t like war and I don’t know anyone sane that does. But, unless there is ever a time when everyone world-wide agrees on everything, wars are going to break out; and that includes ones involving the United States. I can write a whole article about the pros and cons of war, but again that is not what this article or page is about.
I was touched by a donation given to my Project Healing Waters group this past week. It is a great example of the appreciation some people have toward veterans and how generous they can be. After the fly fishing show in Summerset, NJ a couple weeks ago, an anonymous person (likely a vendor) gave one our guys bags of items to share with the group. There were fishing flies and boxes for them, fishing line, fly tying vises and materials, some vests and waders, boots and more. Between the number of flies that I was given, the tying materials, etc., I’d say that I personally received over $100 worth of supplies. That was without taking any of the expensive items like tying vises, boots or waders. I did take a book called “How to Improve Your Fly Fishing and Catching” by Tom McCoy which gives me another article to write soon. Even after we each took items we needed at home there was a ton of stuff to keep at group for our tying there; and enough to share with other groups in the area.
It truly touches me when people show that they care. Whether it be my family, my doctors, people in my veterans groups, or strangers on the street they all are helping me to survive my daily nightmares. Peace seems to be the key. Some doctors have recommended meditation, mindfulness, yoga, prayer, equine therapy and many ways to escape the stress and depression of PTSD. I appreciate Dr. Barbara Smith so much for introducing me to fly fishing and a great group of guys (and Nicole) at Healing Waters in New City, NY.
Appreciation is something I believe is an ongoing circle for veterans and civilians. As a young civilian I appreciated this great country so much that I enlisted in the Army. I became a war veteran and other civilians now show their appreciation to me in so many ways. As an older veteran I am sure to appreciate younger veterans (including my son that served 6 years in the Marines, fought in Afghanistan and is now 50% disabled himself). I appreciate when civilians give to me and other vets an when we thank them they just say “You earned it.” There may be a lot of hatred in this country, but there is a lot of appreciation also. I’m glad that my eyes are open to that fact and I hope yours are too.