In honor of our 15-year anniversary, we’re interviewing individuals who have been involved with Warriors & Quiet Waters Foundation (WQW) in different capacities, some of whom have been involved since the inception of the Foundation in 2007. Today, we’re interviewing Jim and Jo Borowski, a pair of early volunteers and long-standing donors.
WQW: How did you hear about WQW, and how did you get involved?
Jim: We learned about it when we were floating the Yellowstone River in 2007 with Dave Kumlien. We’ve known Dave since the early 1980s, so we have a long history with him and a lot of floats together. He was part of the initial Board, and was telling us all about WQW during lunch, and both of us independently concluded that this was something we really wanted to support. As soon as we got home, we wrote a $500 check to WQW. That was how it began.
Dave had also mentioned that he thought we would make really good volunteers. So, the following year, in 2008, we had our first opportunity to volunteer and started our decade of service as volunteers.
WQW: Why is fly fishing so important to you?
Jim: I look back to my law enforcement career. I started on the western slope of Colorado. I lived right on the upper Colorado River, where it was hardly wider than your living room. I could put my waders on at home, and in five minutes, I was standing in the river fishing. I would do that when I would get off work.
I was doing that because I thought I loved to fish, but in reality, I was getting the fly-fishing benefit, the calming and relief, without realizing it.
So, when we got involved in WQW and saw what it was doing, I could completely relate to what was happening to these Warriors. The feeling they had while being in the water and waving a fly rod around and losing touch with everything except that fly on the water and the river; it’s therapeutic.
WQW: You’re involved with other programs that help veterans. What makes WQW stand out?
Jim: Well, part of it, is the program’s complexity. It’s not a one-and-done type of program. One of the really neat things about WQW was that it had this idea that we’re going to bring these guys out here and we’re going to teach them how to fly fish. Each Warrior is going to get all the equipment that they need, so they have this wonderful experience in Montana and can continue back at home, where all they will need is a license. That was something that really set it apart from the other ones.
The other thing is that WQW has a volunteer companion and a guide. WQW created what I always saw as a three-legged stool, with each one of those people being a part of this support group, making a team for that entire week. And it was a whole week. It wasn’t one of these, “Okay. We’re going to go float the Madison. Meet you at noon,” and then they drop you off at 6:00 and go home.
It’s all of those different elements, the length of time, the involvement of the volunteers, and the way the organization has gone beyond just being that initial fishing trip. It’s the long-term interaction with the Warriors and trying to bring them back. Whether it is with a friend, with their couple, or eventually getting to where they became assistant team leaders or team leaders, now it’s a family program. That is different from anything that I’ve seen in other veteran-centric fishing-type support groups.
Jo: The length of time is a big comparison. The length of time spent fishing is a really good thing about WQW.
Jim Borowski, WQW donor and volunteer
WQW: You two are among five households that have donated to WQW every year since 2007. Why has it been important to you to invest in WQW’s mission on an annual basis?
Jim: We saw its value.
When the Warriors get off the plane, they look like a deer in the headlights. They’re entirely lost. They’re all closed up. By the end of the week, they’re pouring their hearts out at the Sayonara Dinner. They’re entirely changed. That magic formula created by Col. Eric Hastings and the team truly works. It works again and again. We had the blessing to be there year after year and see the program work. That has driven us to continue to support it financially.
WQW: How has WQW impacted you personally?
Jim: I realized that being a volunteer on an FX was helping me deal with issues that I had from Vietnam — with baggage that I was carrying that I didn’t even know I had. It was helping me in the same way it was helping the Warriors.
Jo: It was even more apparent to me what volunteering was doing for Jim. Jim doesn’t always talk about this, but when he was in law enforcement, he had to retire early because of how he was handling stress. That was devastating. That’s when we moved to Montana. What Warriors & Quiet Waters brought to us was huge and will always remain huge in helping Jim, and, as a result, helping me and helping us as a couple. It was a perfect fit for us.
WQW: What part of your involvement with WQW makes you the proudest?
Jim: I’m most proud that we are — 15 years later — going strong. It’s changed, but it needed to change. If it hadn’t changed and were the same as in 2007, it probably would not be as successful today. The Warriors have changed, the world has changed, and WQW needed to change. WQW needed to mature. I feel like the organization’s done a remarkable job in terms of how many people it’s helped and how productive and effective it’s been.
We’ll continue to support the organization because we believe in it. But let somebody else volunteer and have those wonderful experiences that we had, and perhaps be touched and helped in the way we were.
To celebrate our 15th Anniversary with us, please consider making a difference in the lives of the veterans we serve. Please visit our donate page to learn more.