Hooked: Project Healing Waters helps veterans in Grand Junction | PostIndependent.com

Hooked: Project Healing Waters helps veterans in Grand Junction

Brittany Markert
Project Healing Waters volunteer Carol Oglesby nets a fish for veteran, Ted Faucett, at Jim Temple's creek in Palisade.
Submitted photo |


Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day to honor those who died during the Civil War. It now honors all those who were lost in battle. Approximately 1.8 million Americans have fallen during battle since 1775.

Although several towns claim to be the originators of Memorial Day, Congress declared Waterloo, New York, to be the birthplace of the holiday in 1966. It was originally held on May 30, but since was moved to the last Monday in May.

Red Poppies, a common sight on Memorial Day, were inspired by a poem by Moina Michael; she wore the poppies as a fundraiser for veterans. Now, the “Buddy” Poppy program has disabled veterans make artificial poppies and sell them as a fundraiser for veterans.

In December 2000, Congress passed a law requiring Americans to pause at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day to remember and honor the fallen.

Fly fishing wasn’t something Dawn Gwin pictured herself doing — ever.

Gwin struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder and went through many changes while healing from her service in the Middle East. She needed something to help her find peace and at the time nothing was working. Gwin was also a quiet, reserved person, and groups were not her thing.

“I struggled so hard with the tying as I had the attention span of a gnat,” Gwin said of her first experiences with fly fishing, but she has since found the sport to be a perfect way to calm the stresses of life.

Gwin learned to fish as part of Grand Junction’s chapter of Project Healing Waters — “a national rehabilitation service to disabled active military service personnel and veterans through fly fishing,” according to its website.

“There is peace that comes with fishing,” Project Healing Waters Grand Junction chapter founder Pat Oglesby said.

Though Gwin started out receiving therapy from the group in January 2010, she’s since grown to be the program lead — someone who coordinates volunteers and activities — for participating veterans in the area.

Grand Junction’s chapter started in 2010 by Pat and Carol Oglesby, both longtime fly fishers. Although not veterans themselves, Pat saw the opportunity at a convention in Montana to bring Project Healing Waters through Grand Junction Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center (also known as the VA Hospital locally).

Named volunteers of the year for the Rocky Mountain Region of Project Healing Waters, the Oglesbys said they love seeing the progression of the veterans going through their program, including Gwin’s progression.

“She [Gwin] is a stellar example of a vet going through the program,” Carol said. “She is doing an amazing job.”


Project Healing Waters has multiple therapy workshops for veterans seeking recreational therapy in the area. Currently, the program is host to around 24 veterans.

If a veteran chooses Project Healing Waters, he or she starts out with fly-tying classes, followed by learning how to cast, and on to building rods. Each session offers beginner and advanced classes.

Members then take trips varying from one- to multi-day excursions. The program also offers national and even international trips, like to Australia. They frequently go to Snooks Bottom, the Grand Mesa, Pa-co-chu-pak or Boxwood Gulch.

On average, 20-30 volunteers donate time to the program to help with classes and outings.

The program runs on volunteers, donations of class space and even fishing spots. One of the fishing areas used is lent to the group by a Palisade resident, Jim Temple.

Volunteers have often gone through Project Healing Waters themselves and, like Gwin, had a life-changing experience while fly fishing.

“Some people feel it’s not right for them and leave, but others stay and finish the program,” she said. “Some have been here since the program started [in 2010].”

Interested in volunteering? Contact Gwin at 970-314-4400 or email at phwffgj1@hotmail.com for more information.

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