This Memorial Day, take the time to read Monte Burke's story "Discover Courage" in the June-July 2014 issue of FLY FISHERMAN. It's about Jay Manty's organization which is dedicated to helping special operations personnel recover from the mental and physical injuries caused by combat.
Here's my Riffles column on that topic from the very same issue titled "A Show of Respect." Something to think about for Memorial Day.
The fly-fishing community has led an exemplary role in supporting and engaging combat veterans in "the quiet sport." Outsiders don't seem to get the connection between recovery and fly fishing, but we all use our time on the water to regenerate our souls after a hardship, and fly fishers immediately recognize the benefits it provides.
This magazine has previously detailed the efforts of Project Healing Waters and the fly-fishing events supported by Wounded Warrior Project, both of which have blossomed due to the emotional, moral, and operational support from the many volunteers who make the events happen. Taking these men (and women) fishing is just one way we can show our respect.
Now there's a another organization out there using fly fishing as a diversion from chronic PTSD and other combat-related injuries and ailments. The nonprofit Discover Courage was started by retired Navy SEAL Master Chief Jay Manty and his fishing buddy Way Yin—a well-known neurologist and expert caster—as a program specifically designed for active-duty and retired special ops personnel such as Navy SEALs, Rangers, Delta Force, and Special Forces.
Monte Burke explains the nuts and bolts of that program (and why it matters) on page 10 of the June-July 2014 issue. What Burke didn't witness was the day Cathy and Barry Beck took Manty fishing — their way of thanking him for his efforts in starting Discover Courage. The photos also proved to be an effective tool in getting the program the attention it deserves.
The Becks called their part-time neighbor, retired Vice Admiral Phil Balisle, to ask if they could perhaps fish at his vacation property in central Pennsylvania. (Balisle's résumé includes Commanding Officer, USS Kidd; Commanding Officer, USS Anzio; Commander, Cruiser-Destroyer Group THREE; and Commander, USS Abraham Lincoln Battle Group.)
But Admiral Balisle didn't merely say "yes." When he heard the Becks were fishing with a 20-year enlisted man from Navy SEAL Team 2, he drove from his home in Virginia (four hours one way) to greet them.
According to Barry Beck, the admiral met Manty on the stream and "sincerely thanked him for his service and dedication to his fellow SEALs and his country. He ended the conversation with an invitation to go fishing, and a salute. Master Chief Manty returned the gesture, and for just a moment it seemed the world stood still. My camera hung lifelessly around my neck as the two warriors expressed their mutual respect the best way they knew how. And then we went fishing."