Gods Country TU President Dr Pete Ryan, Dave Saulter ,Tracy Edwards and the rest of the chapter hosted 14 PHWFF Participants May 22 to the 25 at a Special event for the 12th year in a row.
We want to thank the local businesses that helped make this come together
- The McKean Country Legion Riders
- The American Eagles
- The Oswayo Valley School District
- Mr. Aaron Rendos and the Coudersport High School Information Technology class
- Coudersport American Legion Post #192 Members, Auxiliary, and Sons.
- Moore’s Run Fish & Game Preserve
- The Potter County Commissioners
- Otto’s “Allegany Grill”
- Mort’s “Meat Mafia”
- Todd’s “Bones & Banter”
- Ms. Tracie Edwards “Hearing Aid Shop”
- God’s Country Chapter of Trout Unlimited volunteers
- First Fork Lodge and their wonderful staff
- The many local citizens and businesses that contributed desserts, gift baskets, quilts, and financial support as well as making sure our disabled veteran guests received a true “Potter County Welcome” as the parade passed through the county.
Rather then tell the story I have a note from one of our Vietnam Veterans talking about the event in his own words
My Welcome Home
The Pennsylvania Region and the West Bradford program of Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing was kind enough to invite me as a participant to the regional trip named “God’s Country” in the
Austin, Coudersport area in Potter County (God’s Country), Pennsylvania.
This event started at Dick’s Diner in Ceres, New York just over the border of Pennsylvania. We met there at noon on May 22nd. All of us had breakfast or brunch at the diner which we found out was donated by an anonymous patron benefactor at the diner. Walking outside after eating we were met by 10 – 12 motorcycles dressed out in American Flags to lead the caravan to our lodging for three days. Falling in behind the escort and forming a parade with a police escort, each of our cars displayed a magnetic American Flag on each side. The road was lined with people cheering us and waving American Flags. There were people of all ages including children waving flags and cheering as we passed.
Our first stop was at a school complex that covered grades K through 12. It was here that we had our first ceremony welcoming us home. The high school ensemble played some spirited music for us and also the National Anthem which we all sang with hands over our hearts. Awards were presented to two high school students, one boy and one girl for their outstanding service to the community. The speeches were short, and when the ceremony was over all the participants were asked to line up along the main drive. The whole student body, including administration, and teachers stopped, shook our hands, thanked us for our service and sacrifice and welcomed us home. This was just the beginning of the show of patriotism and sincere thanks for our service.
For me it, along with two other veterans of “that crazy Asian war”, this welcome home was unexpected, overwhelming and heartwarming. When we came home the welcome was quite the opposite and I will leave it at that. I looked down our line and spotted the other two veterans and could tell they were having the same feelings. I knew both of them from meeting them at other Project Healing Waters Regional events.
We again formed up after this “Welcome Home” and proceeded down the road to Coudersport, Pennsylvania. All along the way, the road was lined with adults and children waving flags and welcoming us home, and thanking us for our service. For me this was a moment that I never thought would ever happen.
Entering Coudersport, the streets were lined with people, flags were waved and buildings were flying the flag. It was like a Fourth of July parade. Police blocked all the traffic so we could continue through the town without interruption. The day was warm and all of us were waving at those lining the sidewalks and streets welcoming us home.
The final leg of our journey took us to a retirement home where we were all welcomed with the driveways lined with people my age welcoming us with the same thanks and patriotism. Even after leaving the retirement village, the road to Austin and the First Fork Lodge was lined with people on their porches and along the road waving flags and welcoming us home.
At the First Fork Lodge, we were again greeted with open arms, thanking us for our service to this great country and warmth from the God’s Country Trout Unlimited Chapter and our host. It was at the lodge after a long drive and a lot of emotion where another opening ceremony took place, and the feeling of closure and peace finally became real to me.
Several years ago a friend of mine introduced me to Project Healing Waters and I originally signed up as a volunteer. Several years after I became a volunteer, the war and Agent Orange caught up with me and I became a full time participant.
The “God’s Country” trip and several other Pennsylvania Regional trips have given me the opportunity to meet and become friends with quite a few other veterans. We share stories, razz each other and share a camaraderie that only someone who has been there and done that can understand. This is part of the healing process, not only for me but also for my brothers. Project Healing Waters provides this opportunity for us.
I have finally received my “Welcome Home” thanks to Project Healing Waters, the volunteers, and the benefactors who donate their time and money to Project Healing Waters.
Without Project Healing Waters, I would have never filled in a piece of myself that has been missing for forty seven years.
Thanks to all of you responsible for this. I will remember this forever.
United States Coast Guard, 1968 – 1971