Each year our Regions recognize a veteran participant who has caught the PHWFF vision and made it their own. We are pleased to announce that Shawn Coe has been recognized as the 2016 Participant of the Year in the Southwest Region.
In September of 2012, during his second tour to Afghanistan, SGT Shawn Coe was injured from a suicide bomber during a security patrol. In September 2014 while still an inpatient at the VA Clinic in Martinez, still recovering from both physical and mental injuries, Shawn was introduced to Project Healing Waters and fly fishing. As a kid growing up in rural Virginia with a love for fishing, fly fishing literally became the salve for healing and rehabilitation of war’s worst wounds. To say he got “hooked” by the sport would be an understatement. His eagerness to learn fly fishing – in its totality – has been a major motivating force for the whole program at Martinez.
His initial enthusiasm for becoming involved in fly fishing was infectious to other vets in the program. He set very aggressive and challenging goals for himself, basically saying I am going to become not just a good fly fisherman, but an excellent fly fisherman.
By setting such a great example Shawn has been able to help our whole program become better as evidenced by:
- Shawn has become so proficient in rod-building that in 2015 he won third place in Category 3 and in 2016 won first place in the same category. He now instructs our vets.
- He has built rods for raising money at the annual local Fly Fishing Show in Pleasanton.
- He not only picked up regular casting, he took it upon himself to learn spey casting early on so he more successfully steelhead fish. That has encouraged other vets to learn two-handed casting.
- Shawn very willingly volunteers his time and expertise in whatever capacity he is needed. He has become especially adept at volunteering his personal knowledge of casting and rod building.
- On our fishing trips Shawn has always been a leader, especially in helping his fellow vets. This was most clearly exhibited in our first air travel outing to WY this past summer when Shawn actually acted as a “guide” to a few of the group.
- Shawn is a super spokesperson for PHWFF, as evidenced by his testimonials on how PHWFF has truly changed his outlook on life.
Fly fishing had such an influence on Shawn that he intends to attend guide school this spring, and looks forward to the day when he can give back to the cause that got him there.