Mid-day Friday, 10 wounded soldiers from Fort Carson arrived at North Pond Park in Silverthorne, ready to spend a day-and-a-half fly fishing along the Blue River.
The men's trip is a function of Project Healing Waters, a nonprofit organization that helps wounded soldiers and veterans rehabilitate through fly fishing. This weekend's event is hosted and sponsored by the Gore Range Chapter of Colorado Trout Unlimited, a conservation organization with over 10,000 members state-wide.
“It's just a great thing to do for the soldiers,” said Mark Heminghous, Trout Unlimited member and event coordinator for the weekend. “They donate a year over there, or more. For us to be able to give them a weekend out fishing is our pleasure.”
Heminghous said private land owners also donated land use for the event.
Each soldier was paired with a volunteer guide. George “Boston George” Souhlaris, Trout Unlimited member and guide for Breckenridge Outfitters, said he volunteered to provide the soldiers with a fun experience. He has worked with Wounded Warriors and Healing Waters in the past.
“It's the least I can do,” Souhlaris said. “They went through a whole lot worse. To give them a good day, why not be the guy to do it.”
One of his favorite parts of volunteering, Souhlaris said, is being an ear for the soldiers so they can feel free to tell their stories.
“It's just a different relationship,” he said. “It's not a hired client ... you just get to see a different side of somebody. My chance to give back is rewarding.”
Healing Waters co-lead Gordy Rothoff, who covers the Fort Carson program, said he has 25 trips this summer, some of them three- or four-day ventures.
Soldier Joe Vigil has been on several of the Healing Waters trips before and was in attendance on Friday. He said he was looking forward to catching some big fish.
“Each time I go I learn a lot from each one of the guides,” he said. “I appreciate the guides coming out and helping out the soldiers. Fishing trips like this really help us out; just to get off the base and do something different.”
Ron Gilligan, Frisco dentist and Trout Unlimited member, was acting as Vigil's guide for the trip.
“These guys are willing to put their lives on the line for us,” he said.