By Kendall Patterson
Staff Writer As Timothy Lewis Deputy regional Coordinator of Tennessee Valley for PHWFF states, Being a vet is not always glory. There’s a lot of instances you want to forget.
Nonetheless, a program at the Veteran’s Administration office called Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF) helps veterans get past these hard times.
Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and disabled veterans through fly fishing and associated activities including education and outings.
Henderson veteran Darrell Mercer had his life changed by this program.
He started going to PHWFF a little bit about a year ago, and his wife Julie Mercer can not believe the effect the program has had on him. She said that, a year ago, Darrell couldn’t do Christmas celebrations or even walk into Walmart due to his problem with people and crowds. However, now, she said that it is like he is a new man. He socializes with the other veterans, and this summer he even got on a plane to Missouri with veterans that are a part of the program to fly fish.
“This man a year ago couldn’t have done this,” she said.
Julie praises the program.
“Everything about it is a healing. Whoever thought of the name of it hit it spot on,” she said.
Lewis recalls the time Darrell first came to the Project Healing Waters gathering to now and states how much of an impact the program has had on his life.
“We met Darrell and Julie at the Jackson Healing Clinic. Darrell used to fly fish before his injuries but never could talk to us about his experiences, Lewis said.
There was a blank stare on his face and you never would have even thought he was the same guy. Project Healing Waters works,” Lewis said.
Now, “I’ll mention fly fishing to someone and Darrell pops up and starts talking to them as well.”
Project Healing Waters even helped.
“This is not a fishing club. It’s an organization that helps vets,” Tim said.
“When people say Project Healing Waters has saved their lives, I don’t take that light heartedly.”
Frank Sospenzi, Jackson program leader, said how this program is the first one that the Veteran’s Administration places disabled veteran’s in especially those who are in danger of committing suicide.
“That’s how strong it is. That’s how beneficial it is,” he said.
Julie and Darrell taught their grandkids in the spring how to fly fish, because of the impact it has had on Darrell and the peacefulness that it brings.
PHWFF is completely free for veterans, and is supported by Bass Pro and other businesses. The Veterans’ Administration’s PHWFF participants go to Gander Outdoors in Jackson, every Wednesday at 4:30.