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Phil Johnson Exceptional Leadership Award

Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF) takes great pleasure in presenting the Phil Johnson Exceptional Leadership Award to Dan Sheesley for his dedicated and inspiring service to our organization from 2017 to 2021.  During this period, his selfless efforts and extreme generosity were directly responsible for the growth and continuous improvement to the PHWFF Washington, DC Program while serving as its Program Lead.

In 2017, Dan stepped in to provide leadership when the DC VA Medical Center approved the initiation of a PHWFF program at its facility. For five years, his leadership, energy and innovation have achieved success for the DC program. 

Dan is a Veteran of the US Army. He served from 1967 to 1970 as a Warrant Officer Helicopter Pilot (CW-2). During his service in Vietnam, he was awarded the Silver Star, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Bronze Star, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and numerous Air Medals.  

In the words of George Gaines, founding member of the PHWFF Board of Trustees: 

There are many good leaders of PHWFF programs across the country. But Dan stands out as a natural, loyal, gifted, caring, giving, leader who is the perfect selection for a PHWFF leadership position. Indeed, it is his military training and experiences, especially in wartime that resulted in his physical disabilities, that gave him special abilities and sensitivities to be able to excel at serving and leading fellow disabled veterans and non-veterans who appreciated the critical contributions they could make to disabled veterans by teaching, guiding, and helping them derive significant pleasure and value from going fishing with their “brothers and sisters.”

 Thomas Mann, former President of the National Capital Chapter of Trout Unlimited:  

Dan worked with the earliest participants to recruit their fellow veterans, and he built an esprit de corps that fashioned the group into a cohesive unit where the members looked out for each other. The diverse group of participants included men, women, a P-51 pilot from WWII, Vietnam vets, and people who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dan made them all feel that they belonged. Dan knew every person’s history, and he was a warm, respectful leader who was admired by everyone involved in the program. 

Dan took on every challenge of providing an excellent program in an urban environment. He spent countless hours of his personal time doing all the elaborate background work that enabled the program to function and to flourish. This included forming partnerships within the VA and the Armed Forces Retirement Home where the program was given permission to access the ponds on site. 

Dan was successful in his numerous outreach efforts to recruit participants, volunteers, and donors of resources and funds. He was able to secure special equipment to meet the needs of every participant. When it was discovered that some participants in the program were homeless Dan and his wife Ann provided sandwich buffets at every outside activity.

By sharing his love of the outdoors and flyfishing with the veterans whom he calls his brothers and sisters, Dan Sheesley embodies the true spirit of PHWFF. 

Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Inc. is proud to bestow upon Dan Sheesley the Phil Johnson Exceptional Leadership Award for his tireless and extraordinary service to our organization and to those wounded, ill, and injured Servicemen and Servicewomen and disabled Veterans whom this organization serves.

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