On Monday, October 1 st , wounded warriors and disabled veterans fished the waters of the Patuxent River. The participants were supported by volunteers from the Southern Maryland Recreational Fishing Organization (SMRFO) who served as boat captains and mates for the day. Volunteers serving as boat captains included Parran Wilkinson, Gary Boyd, Tim Floyd, John Stilwell, Andy Cusick, Brian Vallandingham, and Dave Meiser with Leon Smith, Greg Boyd and Phil Zalesak serving as their mates.
Participants came from the Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing local programs at the Washington DC Veterans Administration Hospital, Fort Meade, and La Plata. The sponsor for this event was Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing with support from SMRFO, the Greenwell Foundation which provided fishing rods and tackle, and the Tackle Box of Lexington Park which donated blood worms for the event. At the end of a very productive morning, all 41 participants and volunteers were treated to lunch by Mission BBQ of California, Maryland, at Greenwell State Park.
According to George Gaines, National Capital Region Coordinator for PHWFF, fishing events are therapeutic for service members suffering from disabilities. He stated that “getting out in the water is truly a healing event for many active service members and veterans with disabilities.” One of the PHWFF vision-impaired veteran participants was quoted as saying, “It was the best outing I have participated in for well over a decade. Many thanks!”
This event is a tribute to what organizations can do when they work as partners in support of Americans who have served their country. This was the second annual Patuxent River outing for Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing participants and will be an annual event supported by SMRFO going forward.
Leon Smith (left to right), Donald Ford, Zernola Shamber, and David Meiser pose for a picture before they launch