Our MissionThrough the experience of fly fishing in Montana, WQW is a catalyst for positive change in the lives of post-9/11 combat veterans.
We envision an America in which a new generation of traumatically injured combat veterans successfully reintegrates into society.
Through the experience of fly fishing in Montana, WQW is a catalyst for positive change in the lives of post-9/11 combat veterans.
Retired Marine Colonel Eric Hastings remembers flight missions “high above the absolute death and destruction on the ground” during his tours in Vietnam. From the cockpit, he traced meandering ribbons that cut through the jungle and reminded him of the trout streams of home. At night, he dreamed of fly fishing. When he returned to Montana in 1969, to a nation decades from diagnosing Post Traumatic Stress (PTS), he went straight to the water. He tied a fly to a line and cast. The river, he claims, healed him. Hastings and Dr. Volney Steele found they shared a vision of bringing warriors with both seen and unseen wounds from recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to Montana to find the peace and hope they mutually found through fishing. In July and September of 2007, Hastings, Steele, and dozens of other dedicated volunteers brought Warriors and Quiet Waters Foundation’s first two groups of traumatically injured combat veterans to Bozeman. Along with a welcomed break from surgeries, rehab therapy, doctors, and hospital routines, the 14 Soldiers, Marines, and Sailors from the Naval Medical Center in San Diego were given: top-of-line fishing gear; float trips on blue ribbon waters and fly fishing instruction from world-class professional guides; delicious home-cooked meals by loving “moms”; and comfortable accommodations in beautiful surroundings. The less tangible yet more meaningful benefits they reported receiving were feelings of security, serenity, resilience, hope and camaraderie that formed positive memories and will last a lifetime. The group knew they had a model that worked incredibly well, and began planning for 2008 and beyond. Although not a religious organization, Warriors and Quiet Waters’ name was inspired by Psalm 23, “He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul.”
In 2012, the Department of Defense (DOD) estimated more than 50,000 Americans from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom had been injured in combat. Among the wounded are some 16,000 severely injured casualties who would have died on the battlefield just a generation ago. But medical and technological advances are saving more than 90 percent of all those who fall in battle. The wounded statistics describe only those with physical wounds. The unseen wounds of war — including post-traumatic stress (PTS) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) — are not included and are harder to track. Since 2002, DOD has recorded more than 43,000 patients diagnosed with TBI, but many more may have gone undiagnosed. The Department of Veterans Affairs is taking in thousands of new cases of PTS each month. Because most of the wounded are young, they will need decades of help. WQW believes we are part of the solution regarding our nation’s injured defenders by providing a respite from the stresses of war, the monotony of lengthy hospital stays and traditional therapy, and the many day-to-day struggles involved in their journey home. To learn more about the details of our program, click here
In 2015, WQW served 67 of the nation’s combat-wounded service members and 12 of their spouses bringing the total number served to 470. The 2015 program model was influenced by the philosophy that ‘the greatest healing can take place when we get out of ourselves so we may be helpful to others.’ Taking this into consideration and as WQW strives to enhance its long-term support for program participants, a new program model was created.
Over the course of the season WQW invited 27 warrior alumni to return to southwest Montana – not to fish – but to fulfill the role of “Alumni Companion.” By partnering alumni with warriors participating on their very first FX, alumni had the unique opportunity to serve a fellow veteran experiencing similar challenges in reintegration. “Thank you for giving me a hand out of the darkness and giving me an opportunity to witness and help with other warriors and their Montana experience.” – Bradley Herold, Alumni Companion. Feedback on the new FX model has been has been resoundingly positive from both volunteers and warriors. We look forward to continuing this mentorship model in the new program year.
As we prepare for 2016 programs we look forward to strengthening professional referral partnerships with veteran service organizations whose missions align with WQW. Recruiting methods are evolving as we gain distance from recent wars and as service members transition into the civilian population. Participation in an FX may be the first time a warrior has asked for, or accepted, help. It may be their first time stepping onto the path of emotional or spiritual healing. “You have saved my life in every way possible. I will never give up.” – Ron Verhine, Alumni Companion. We look forward to keeping you posted on our recruitment partnerships and warrior services!