"Project Healing Waters" helps Spartan's wounded Soldiers through unique handicraft instruction
September 16, 2011
Wounded warriors from the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Task Force Spartan), have multiple avenues to recover from and relieve stress. Those in the United States, have a wide range of options available to them, along with the continuous support of their fellow Soldiers and leadership. While deployed, however, those who are still recovering from battle injuries in Afghanistan have support and resources available to them through the new Spartan Resiliency Center located at Forward Operating Base Pasab, as well as an initiative known as Project Healing Waters.
"Project Healing Waters started at Walter Reed (National Military Medical Center) for wounded warriors from Iraq and Afghanistan, and it has grown in the last six years to (about) 100 chapters in the continental United States," said Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Myer, operations sergeant for the Stability Transition Team, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd IBCT, and the leader of Project Healing Waters at the Spartan Resiliency Center.
Myer is an avid fly fisherman and a dedicated Spartan Soldier. A few years ago, Myer decided to use his passion for fishing, to help fellow Soldiers by bringing the relaxation techniques associated with fishing to the combat zone.
"I read an article in a magazine about it and I saw that there was a local chapter, (so I called them) and they called me back. I have been working with them for four years now," Myer said.
As a member of the organization, Myer works with the Resiliency Center to help injured Soldiers recover and return to the fight with their units in Kandahar province.
"Here at the brigade, in Afghanistan, I work with the battle stress folks, just teaching them fly-tying techniques, as a way to process, to relax and to feel the focus and calm down," Myer said. "Fly-tying (also) works well for occupational therapy, the fine motor skills of tying flies, as well as for traumatic brain injury patients. It causes you to concentrate, and slow down, and really compartmentalize what you are doing. You can't be thinking about other things and tie flies, it just won't work," Myer continued. "All of which are great things for these patients."
In the classes, Soldiers are allowed to be relaxed and comfortable. They can attend in their duty uniforms or in their physical training uniforms. Myer tries to make the classes very personal and relaxed, by using first names instead of ranks and last names. Soldiers who come to the Spartan Resiliency Center and attend Myer's classes are either suffering from combat related stress or TBI, so it is important for the learning environment to be a bit more relaxed than the usual military environment.
"I have been working more with the occupational therapy and with the TBI (patients)," Myer said. "I see those patients more so I can teach them more techniques. We start with a very basic fly and we build on those techniques."
The first class for TBI patients was held Sept. 10. Four Soldiers attended the hour-long class.
"We did a green soft tackle (fly today)," Myer said of the first class he conducted with Soldiers.
The Soldiers actually had to tie their fishing flies by flashlight because the power to the building went out. Despite the lack of electricity, the four Soldiers responded well to Myer's calm and helpful attitude. One of the wounded Soldiers talked about how he owns a fly fishing pole, but has never been able to master the art of casting. Myer told him about the learning opportunities for casting and fishing that would be available to the Soldiers once they returned from Afghanistan to Fort Drum, N.Y.
"The fishing really works well with physical therapy, the wading into moving water really helps them with their balance, the strengthening of their legs, the actual casting helps them with their upper body," Myer said. "When we go fishing, we team them up with one Project Healing Water volunteer. They are there as what we would consider as a guide, but also to help with the water, because they are still outpatients."
Deployed Soldiers working with Project Healing Waters will have the classes and fishing trips available to them when they get back to Fort Drum. All fishing equipment and expenses, ranging from one day to a few days, are paid for by the organization.
All of the equipment Myer uses in his classes, was donated to Project Healing Waters and sent to Afghanistan.
Project Healing Waters is open to anyone who wants to donate money, fishing equipment, or volunteer their time to help wounded warriors recover both mentally and physically by sharing their passion for fly fishing.