LOVELAND, Colo. (CBS4) – The sound of water can be soothing, and it can be a perfect place to recover.
“The water holds no scars,” Joe O’Connor, President of the Board of Directors for the Platte Rivers Veterans Fly Fishing Group, said.
So what better way to escape the painful memories of war than soaking in the serene surroundings on the San Juan River.
“You were able to actually enjoy a day of life,” veteran Joe Muzy said of his recent trip.
Muzy served in both the Marines and U.S. Air Force. He completed hundreds of combat missions in Vietnam.
“It sticks with you. It changes you,” Muzy told CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann.
Last weekend, Muzy was among the 20 veterans on the first ever “Honor Float” — an all-expense paid fly fishing trip to New Mexico organized by the Platte Rivers Veterans Fly Fishing Group.
“We use the power of the water to help heal,” O’Connor explained. “We use it to strengthen those in need who might have PTSD and are having a hard time adjusting to civilian life.”
O’Connor said the veterans group came up with the idea for the Honor Float last year. They organized fundraisers to ensure no Vietnam veteran needed to spend a dime for the trip that included 5-star resort accommodations at the Soaring Eagle Lodge, delicious food handmade by a professional chef and well-experienced fly fishing guides.
“There’s more to patriotism than just celebrating [our veterans] on a certain day,” O’Connor said. “We don’t want to forget those who served, what they’ve done and what they’ve gone through.”
Muzy said the trip helped him forget about the stressful life at home and focus on fishing with new friends, and the beauty around him.
“The only thing you have to worry about is keeping your arm straight when you cast,” he said with a big smile.
The smile stretched across his face said it all, yet Muzy added the best part of the four-day trip was connecting with others who served in Vietnam.
“To get together with veterans that experienced the same displeasure that I did, it’s easier to have a conversation because they understand,” Clyde Brewer, Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient, said. “I came back from Vietnam 51 years ago in March. It’s been a long time.”
Sharing stories with fellow veterans was also a highlight for Air Force veteran Duane Cook.
“We got to tell stories that we never shared before,” Cook told Werthmann. “There were some of us that were in the same area, in the same unit, at the same time and we had no idea.”
This time, they were all together among peaceful waters with new memories the men won’t soon forget.
“Just the comradery we got out of this honor float is something I’ll take with me for the rest of my life.”
The Platte Rivers Veterans Fly Fishing group plans to make the Honor Float an annual trip. Next year, O’Connor said they plan to host veterans from Desert Storm and those who’ve served post-9/11 in 2021.