We are pleased to announce that Sergeant Lisa Ornelas US Army | Iraq will share her story during the Saturday night dinner of the 12th Annual #PHWFF2Fly Tournament at Rose River Farm.

Now entering it’s second decade as the flagship fundraiser for PHWFF, the 2-Fly Tournament has provided vital support for this top-tier Veterans Service Organization and served to raise awareness for it’s remarkable contributions towards the recovery and rehabilitation of those who have made great sacrifices in the service of our nation. There are many ways to help support this great annual event which provides vital funding and awareness for our cause and the disabled veterans we serve.  Click here to visit the 2-Fly Online Auction.

Lisa was born and raised in Southern California. She grew up a tomboy helping her father with plumbing, drywall, electrical, automotive repair, and masonry. She spent countless hours by his side listening to stories of his time in Korea and visiting with her grandfather who told stories of his time in WWII. Her father explained if she was going to enlist there are three people you want to make friends with: the Cook, Supply and Finance. He explained everyone needs supplies, food and money in the military.

Lisa graduated high school in 1986. She gave birth to a daughter in 1988 and a son in 1992. She began attending college and joined the California Army National Guard in 1993 attached to the 40th Finance Battalion out of Compton, California as a Finance/Accounting Specialist and Financial Management Technician because everyone needs the money guy. Lisa completed her obligation in late August 2001.

Lisa worked as a Park Ranger, Inspection and Quarantine for the United States Department of Agriculture, and Detention Officer while completing her Bachelor degree in Criminal Justice and Public Administration at the California State University Fullerton graduating in 2003. Lisa was attending the university as a graduate student when she reenlisted in the Army in 2004 where she met Don her husband. She was deployed to Iraq in 2004 stationed at FOB Speicher in Tikrit, Iraq. She worked as a finance cashier, Supply SGT, NBC NCO, Unit Military Postal Clerk, and the additional duty as Security Officer. Don deployed to Iraq in 2004 stationed at FOB Warrior in Kirkuk, Iraq.

In March 2005 she suffered multiple head and neck injuries. While being treated at the Balad Air Base Theater Hospital she was housed in the patient overflow tent when it was mortared. She was later released to Speicher for additional treatment. While there she was severely beaten, strangled and left for dead. She received more treatment and sent to Germany, stabilized and on to Ft. Knox, Kentucky where she spent 17 months recovering from her injuries and separated from the military.

After returning home in late 2006 Lisa returned to work as a Jail Manager and Correctional Officer. She was unable to perform her duties without putting herself and others in danger and resigned her position. She married Don in 2009; their blended family consisting of four daughters and one son. Lisa returned to the university to complete her degree. She received a Masters of Science in Criminology in 2009 from California State University Long Beach. Then attended California State University Fullerton to study Crime and Intelligence Analysis as well as California State University Dominquez Hills to study Community College Teaching. She then worked as a Crime and Intelligence Analyst. Lisa found the job worsened her PTSD making her completely unable to trust people.

Her son enlisted and soon deployed to Afghanistan. Lisa now understood what it was like to be the one at home. She was losing her battle with depression, anxiety, isolation, agoraphobia and trust issues. After years of conventional therapy with the Veterans Affairs Administration, her symptoms were worsening. Her mental health professionals encouraged her to contact Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing. Lisa decided to return to school and was admitted to the University Southern California. The postgraduate program was very supportive when Lisa decided she could not continue and returned to the VA for exposure therapy, CBT, and EMDR. During her therapy Lisa found herself at her worst. She was losing the battle within herself and decided to try the alternative therapy with Project Healing Waters. Lisa called Carole Katz of Project Healing Waters Long Beach who promptly returned her call, giving Lisa no chance to talk herself out of going. She attended the meeting and found the participants and volunteers to be warm and inviting. The camaraderie was between the participants was apparent and was something Lisa had missed.  Lisa started just in time for rod building and found the activity to be very therapeutic, taking her out of her own head while she worked. Casting had the same effect on her; she found herself spending extra days at the casting pond practicing. Lisa’s family saw the improvement in her and supported her fly-fishing by encouraging her and providing her with the latest and greatest fly-fishing gear. Lisa found over time her relationship with her husband, Don, improved. Don, a combat veteran has remained by her side caring for and supporting her through the worst of times. Her relationships with her five children had deteriorated over the years since she returned home from Iraq, but, since participating in Project Healing Waters, these relationships became stronger over time as she opened herself up to them once again. They continue to show their support and encouragement often commenting how wonderful it is to have their mother home.

For a over a decade Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF)  has focused on healing those who serve.  It is through the tremendous contributions of our volunteers and supporters nationwide that last year we served over 7500 deserving members of our armed services.   The 12th Annual 2-Fly Tournament will serve to raise funds to provide veterans with the support they need on their journeys to recovery as we continue in our second decade of service.  Learn more