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Phil Johnson Exceptional Leadership Award

The Board of Trustees of Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF) takes great pleasure in presenting the Phil Johnson Exceptional Leadership Award to Jake Blizzard for his dedicated and inspiring service to the Virginia Region’s participants and volunteers.  He has demonstrated tireless and extraordinary service to our organization and to those wounded, ill, and injured servicemen and servicewomen and disabled veterans whom this organization serves.

Join us in congratulating Jake on this well-deserved recognition!  In attendance for the presentation ceremony were President and CEO Todd Desgrosseillers, Virginia Regional Coordinator Bill Campbell, former Virginia Regional Coordinator Ray Babineau, the awards namesake Phil Johnson, and volunteers, veteran participants, family and friends from the community.  You can watch a short video of this special presentation below:


Jake was born in Pennsylvania and raised in Delaware and lived there until entering the United States Marine Corps in 1990. Jake served in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm.

Jake’s encampment was hit one night by an Iraqi Scudmissile, and he was thrown twelve feet thru the air and MOP gear was donned. Years later Jake was diagnosed with TBI, PTSD and chemical exposure from this event, and has been receiving treatment for these injuries to this day. Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing introduced a passion into Jake’s life which has helped him cope with the daily struggles of living with PTSD. Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing activities provided him a “goal” to get his life back following many past surgeries. Jake built his first fly rod in 2013, Salem VAMC’s first fly rod to be submitted in the national contest. On an outing in October, 2013, Jake caught his first ever trout that morning…by midday he stopped fishing in order to help another warrior catch her first ever trout using techniques he learned just a few hours earlier.

Doubtless due to his dual passions for the sport and desire to help others, Jake accepted the position of the Program Lead for Salem VAMC. He is a gifted teacher, and all who meet him agree that he could sell bark to a tree. Much of the success this program currently enjoys is due in no small part to Jake’s big heart and mentoring way. Here is just a sampling of the progress Salem VAMC has made under Jake’s leadership: (1) Weekly fly tying demonstrations at the most popular local fly fishing supply store, Sportsman’s Warehouse, as a means of capturing disabled veterans shopping for fishing supplies. (2) Monthly meetings of guides and participants to outline the upcoming activities for the following month. (3) Monthly fly tying sessions at the local DAV Community Center using TU fly tiers as instructors. (4) Half-day and full day outings to local streams and ponds stocked by private landowners who have permitted access to their private water. (5) Arranged with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to stock a public section of delayed harvest water on the Roanoke River for a major fishing event next spring. (6) Established an outreach program to find young disabled veterans that includes synergistic partnerships with Trout Unlimited, Disabled American Veterans, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, local prosthetic providers, local churches, and, of course, the Salem VAMC and associated veterans centers.

Jake is married to his lovely wife, Cherrie, of twenty three years, who has been very supportive of Jake and other veterans. He has two beautiful children, Torrye and Maddy, and granddaughter Aubriella.

The Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF) program in Roanoke, Virginia provides regular meetings for disabled veterans in their community.  This volunteer run program offers fly tying, rod building, casting instruction, and fly fishing outings as physical and emotional therapy for those veterans who have honorably served and sacrificed for our Nation.

To connect with the Roanoke/New River Valley Program visit them on Facebook by clicking here