Groups in Southwest Virginia take vets on outdoor adventures to honor them and help them heal

Outdoors Bound

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — There are two groups honoring military veterans in southwest Virginia by giving them the chance to experience outdoors adventures like fishing and hunting.

Project Healing Waters is a national group with local chapters that uses fly-fishing as part of the rehabilitative process for disabled veterans. Volunteers work with vets to teach them fly-fishing and fly-tying.

“It brings guys together who are going through the rehabilitation process, whether it’s physically or PTSD,” said local Project Healing Waters organizer and Marine Corps veteran Fred Paddock during a recent outing on the Roanoke River in Salem. “It gets them outside, get with a group of people.”

Army veteran Seyward McKinney echoed that sentiment, saying, “If I’m starting to have a bad day I can always run stuff by them and usually they’re going through the same thing, so it’s someone I can talk to.”

Camaraderie is a big part of the program for another group helping local vets. The Fallen Outdoors takes veterans hunting and fishing, free of charge. The only requirement is that the participant has to be a military veteran.

“We have teams in 49 state across the country,” explained Fallen Outdoors organizer and Army vet Hunter Dalton on a recent striped bass trip at Smith Mountain Lake. “Each state has volunteers like myself to set up hunting and fishing trips.”

On this day, Capt. John Mathena of Patriot Fishing had an Air Force veteran and an Army veteran on his boat.

“We take all branches and we meet a lot of different people, and we meet a lot with the same backgrounds,” said Mathena, who is an Army veteran. “A lot of us have been in the same places at the same time, you know there’s just a bond between veterans.

Both groups take donations, and both are always looking for volunteers.

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