Since being wounded in 2004 and medically retired from the Army, finding my purpose and learning to thrive with my “new normal” has been a long and arduous journey. Life is full of ups and downs for all of us, and for combat veterans, these highs and lows can seem miles apart. At times, they seem almost impossible to get through.
I have struggled with trusting others, living in the present moment, accepting gratitude, expressing myself properly, and letting go of the things that no longer serve my well-being. Believe me, I still struggle, but I’ve come to realize that I’m not alone, I have value and I belong.
I attended my first Warriors & Quite Waters (WQW) experience in the spring of 2022, on what was then called a Solo Fishing Experience (FX). Given my arm amputation, I wasn’t even sure I could fly fish, but I went regardless. I was taught not only to fly fish but also how to begin thriving. Thriving means something different to each of us. For me, thriving was letting go of mind-numbing thoughts and feelings, being present with my guide, my companion, the staff, and the other veterans, and landing that first fish!
As I said earlier, learning to thrive has been arduous and, at times, harder than most things I had ever done. After over 19 years since my wound, I have learned how to identify and avoid triggers, how to deal with my feelings and emotions in a positive manner, and how to look forward more than I look back. I used to get stuck in my thoughts, my failures, and my trauma. Those things controlled every aspect of my life. I wasn’t living, I was simply surviving, and that wasn’t good enough.
Accepting that failure wasn’t absolute; it was proof of trying, and I’m no quitter. Being the best version of myself had to become my top priority if I was going to thrive in life.
I have found that I’m most passionate about spending time in nature with my fellow veterans and like-minded individuals. I also love photography, hunting, racing, riding my Harley and spending time with friends and family.
WQW has equipped me to thrive by showing me that my wounds and trauma are not a death sentence. WQW exposed me to people who actually care about me and want to see me thrive. I have often said, “When I’m at WQW, I feel like I belong and have a purpose again.” The camaraderie shared at WQW events feels like it did in my unit, and I missed that more than I realized. I hope to move to Montana someday and become an active part of helping other veterans, their families, caregivers, staff, and volunteers continue to thrive.