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Fly fishing becomes PTSD therapy for local veterans

By Meredith Machen, mmachen@wcyb.com
Published On: Mar 22 2013 03:06:06 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 21 2013 11:00:00 PM CDT

Veterans dealing with post-war wounds like PTSD are fly fishing as a means of therapy. .

SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. -

A war wound that doesn't leave a visual scar is still haunting the lives of many of our nation's troops and veterans.

Those wounds are psychological injuries like post-traumatic stress disorder. News 5 found out how a local a river is becoming a healing oasis for veterans battling PTSD.

The calm and tranquility of a river's water is a world away from combat and war. Maybe that's why a group called Rivers of Recovery believes it's just the place for local veterans like Jeremiah Honaker not just to fish, but to heal. "I was injured in Iraq in '06 and '07, and I suffer from severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD]," said Honaker.

You may not see these invisible wounds. "We look normal on the outside, but we're not on the inside," Honaker said.

But we're told they are rampant in the veteran community. "It's such a stigma associated with post traumatic stress today that you know a lot of the guys that are having problems don't tell anyone that they're having problems. It's a huge pandemic," said Edgar Duffey, with Rivers of Recovery.

Rivers of Recovery is hoping to ease this pandemic by raising awareness. "We want to cater to that; we want to identify it," said Duffey.

Therapy through fly fishing makes the river healing water. With a few casts of the rod, PTSD issues begin to melt away; the focus is on the fish.

Veterans told us there's something about the serenity of nature here on the South Holston River that's a therapy in and of itself. "We don't do well with crowds, we don't do well in a lot of places. But being out on the water, it's relaxing," said Honaker.

That's even true when the trout aren't biting, "Ah, it's a little slow today!" laughed Honaker.

There's also encouragement sharing the river with fellow veterans who can relate to the pain of sacrifice without ever saying a word.

We did some research and found out that according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, up to 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from PTSD.

The disorder impacts another 10 percent of Gulf War veterans and 30 percent of Vietnam veterans.

River's Way, the host group for Rivers of Recovery, is looking to offer several more of these trips for veterans throughout the year.