From Combat to Camaradie on Quiet Waters - Warriors & Quiet Waters

From Combat to Camaradie on Quiet Waters

WQW Impact: How Two Brothers Recreated Meaningful Memories on the Yellowstone

I was born in Bozeman. My mother, a US Air Force veteran, studied at Montana State University while my father was still enlisted and stationed at Malmstrom AFB in Great Falls, Montana. My mother and father met at Malmstrom, where my older brother Lucas was born. My earliest memories are of Lucas and me learning to fly fish in Montana. We eventually moved to northern Indiana to be closer to family.

Growing up in a military service-oriented family, it always seemed natural that I would serve in the armed forces. I was unsure of my future in the service until my football coach spoke of his time assigned to the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment. It piqued my interest. I enlisted shortly after September 11th, 2001, and after graduation, I was on the first plane to Ft. Benning, Georgia, with an Airborne Infantry Ranger option four-year contract in hand. After training, I was stationed at Ft. Lewis Washington and later assigned to the Second Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion 23rd Infantry Regiment (Strykers). We deployed to Iraq to support Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2003-2004. I was wounded during combat operations; however, I rapidly received high-level care, made a full recovery, and was able to rejoin my unit quickly.

After I returned from Iraq, my older brother Lucas decided to join the US Army as a Combat Medic and was stationed in Hawaii with the 25th Infantry Division. Lucas deployed to Iraq shortly after in 2006. In hindsight, I am confident my mother got little sleep between 2002 and 2012 as both of her sons rotated in and out of combat theaters.

Eventually, I completed my enlistment and began a new career with the Department of Homeland Security. Around the same time, in 2012, Lucas was deployed to Afghanistan and was injured in an IED explosion. He was medically retired and eventually made a full recovery.

Several years later, my brother contacted me about applying for what I thought was just a fly-fishing trip, but it turned out to be much more than that. Lucas sent me a link to Warriors & Quiet Waters (WQW), and we flew out to Quiet Waters Ranch in the summer of 2019 for our first Fishing Experience (FX). I really didn’t know what to expect when I arrived. The heartfelt, welcoming initial reception took me aback. That feeling didn’t end there. I felt like a celebrity. The way WQW staff and volunteers genuinely value, engage with, and care for each veteran who crosses their threshold is unmatched in my experience. It was almost overwhelming to receive this level of treatment, and I was not accustomed to it.

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During this trip, Lucas and I fished some of the same waters we grew up on, and I relived some of my fondest childhood memories. At one point, I showed the staff photographer, SGT Mac (a veteran combat correspondent, as it so happens), an old family photo of my brother and me in a drift boat on the Yellowstone River not far from where we currently sat. SGT Mac and our guides swapped some people around, and soon, we were recreating that scene that had taken place 30 years prior on the very river it took place. This was profound to my family for several reasons, but I think the most relevant one is the gift it was to my mother: a woman who had raised two boys, watched them volunteer to serve around the world, and wondered year after year if they both would return home. Now, in this photograph, juxtaposed with one just like it of her two young boys, she was gifted the comfort of knowing we were safe, together, and taken care of by one another and by WQW.

This experience provided much-needed time for my brother and me to find peace and connection with one another, and it will join our childhood memories as one of the best moments of our lives. The real impact of the WQW experience is the people you meet there. Without exception, everyone was authentic, there to serve, and dedicated to providing an environment where camaraderie, friendship, learning, teaching, and bonding could occur. Somehow, the staff at WQW accomplishes all of this without forcing “mandatory fun,” which, to a bunch of old combat vets, is no small feat. Lucas and I remain in contact with several staff members and fellow alumni from our FX in 2019. My family has been touched by the generosity of WQW and their mission.

Opening Letter

This story was written by Seth, U.S. Army veteran. Seth is a member of the WQW Alumni Ambassador program.