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Veterans Learn to Fly-Fish Through Healing Program - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Veterans Learn to Fly-Fish Through Healing Program

Posted: Updated: April 7, 2013 08:25 PM EDT

Wounded veterans and service members are escaping to a healing oasis in Madison County. Project Healing Waters teaches fly-fishing skills to men and women injured serving their country.      

On Sunday, Project Healing Waters had its spring icebreaker - a chance for these veterans and service men and women to break out their fly-fishing gear for the first time this year.     

But the day was about much more than just the sport.      

"I had never fly-fished in my life and went out and tried it and quickly fell in love with it and it was the perfect thing for me to do to help me out with my emotional and physical recovery," Iraq war veteran David Folkerts said.  

When Folkerts first got back from Iraq in 2005, putting a fly on a fishing line would have been impossible.  

"I got shrapnel wounds to my left arm that did some artery and nerve damage and my left hand was completely paralyzed for a little over a year," he said.    

That's when he got involved with Project Healing Waters, a nonprofit that teaches wounded veterans and service men and women how to fly-fish while they're in the hospital, and then gets them out on the water through outings like Sunday's at Rose River Farm.  

"Trying to develop some of my motor skills back with my left hand with what use I had left – fly-fishing played a big part of that," Folkerts said.        

Attaching a fly, casting a rod and pulling a line became the practice Folkerts needed to regain the use of his left hand - and helped him emotionally all the while.  

"I was thinking negatively about a lot of things I couldn't do as well anymore and when I came out and participated in Project Healing Waters it really, it flipped a switch in my mind and helped me focus on things like, 'hey, there's a lot of things you can still do,'" Folkerts said.       

When he retired from the Army, Folkerts became the COO of Healing Waters. Now he helps other people find the same healing that he discovered down on the river.    

"People - I don't know how to say it but - come back to life, have smiles on their face, people that never smile, they smile here," Healing Waters participant Maria Moreno said. "Whatever's going on - be it visible or not - this program heals them."  

Sunday was just a warm-up. On April 27 and 28 wounded veterans and service men and women from all over the country will come together in Madison County for the annual two fly-fishing tournament.

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