When I left the military, my best friend (who also happens to be my favorite travel partner) and I drove cross-country from California to Georgia. We took the northern route, hitting places like The Badlands, Jackson Hole, and The Crazy Horse Memorial. Of all the places I’ve been, this was one of my favorite trips. The scenery was breathtaking, the air was perhaps the cleanest I’ve ever inhaled (which, for an asthmatic, is a big deal!) and the people were wonderful and it was incredibly peaceful. Which is why it makes complete sense that Warriors & Quiet Waters (WQW) would choose this environment to help veterans heal.
Warriors & Quiet Waters is a non-profit that brings “traumatically combat-injured” veterans and servicemembers to Montana primarily for fly fishing. They are expanding, though, offering their first ski experience in February of this year and their first equine therapy experience is scheduled for October. It was started in 2007 by retired Marine Colonel Eric Hastings, a Vietnam veteran who used fly fishing as his own “therapy” after his combat experience, and Dr. Volney Steele, an MD by way of the Navy and something of a Montana legend. It’s a relatively small program – they served 55 veterans and 12 spouses last year – but it’s a quality one, with people, primarily volunteers, who truly care about the warriors and their families. (You may recognize one of those doing the caring – previous Front & Center interviewee, founder of Dog Tag Brewing, and Executive Director of WQW, Seth Jordan.)
Participants go to Montana for a six day, relaxing, alcohol-free, and fully funded – travel, lodging, food, “kit” (that includes full fly fishing gear that the participant gets to keep) are provided – experience. Experiences are held between April and October each year and each experience is kept small – six warriors in the single experience – with one-on-one support for each warrior. In every instance, WQW staff and volunteers work to accommodate the needs of the warriors, from adaptive ski equipment to personal space requirements. In addition to fishing/skiing/equine opportunities, participants also spend a day visiting Yellowstone. Which, I can say from personal experience, is a sight to behold. (A daily breakout of events for each type of experience can be found on their website.)
Volunteers are needed for a variety of roles, including guides, drivers, companions, cooks, and massage therapists. Volunteers are fully prepped for their roles through an optional orientation, held once a year just before the experiences start, a detailed handbook and FAQs document, and a detailed packet with schedule and other details provided for their specific experience. Licensed guides are paid, all other volunteers are true volunteers and, while they may have some free dining opportunities, are generally responsible for their own arrangements and costs.
If you’re interested in participating or volunteering, you can apply on their website. You can also find a schedule of this year’s experiences, full bios on the staff and board members, and a photo gallery of warriors who have participated in WQW. If participating or volunteering isn’t in your wheelhouse, but you’d like to support Warriors & Quiet Waters’ mission, you can find details on their 2014 Pebble Beach raffle. Which, having lived next to Pebble Beach in Pacific Grove, I can tell you is a very sweet deal!
© 2014, Sarah Maples. All rights reserved.