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5e92b614-2fd6-42eb-8bcc-4737767632d6Each year we recognize a veteran participant from each of our regions. The following participants for 2015 have caught the PHWFF vision and made it their own. Join us in congratulating each of these deserving recipients, and may they have many happy days of fly fishing ahead of them.

We also extend a sincere thank you to the Orvis Company for their generous support of our cause and participants by providing each award recipient with a Safe Passage Guide Sling Pack loaded with necessary tools for on the water.



co-participant-of-the-year-2015Jim Westervelt – Rocky Mountain Region
Colorado Springs, CO Program

Jim Westervelt is an active PHWFF veteran participant. He joined PHWFF in 2014 and has participated in several trips and also in fly tying.

Jim was in the army for seven years.  He spent 3 years in the 82 Airborne Division after which he reclassified to become a medic.  He spent 3 months in Haiti, 1 year in Korea, and 1 year in Iraq.  He spent a total of seven years in the army and was honorably discharged as a sergeant.

After the military Jim was going to college but dropped out due to severe PTSD issues.  Jim spent almost seven years using drugs.  After finally overcoming addiction, He began fly fishing and found his life turning around for the better.  He found getting out in nature and spending time with other vets to be the most therapeutic ways he could spend time.  Now he sees life from a positive point of view, and hopes to volunteer and mentor in the future to help other veterans get the same benefits he has from fly fishing.

Jim lives in Colorado Springs and has brothers and sisters living in NJ.  He enjoys spending his time fly fishing, playing guitar, and mostly trying to find ways he can help other veterans.

mid-south-participant-of-the-year-2015Rod Maclean – Midsouth Region
Fayetteville, NC Program

The Fayetteville Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Program proudly recommended its 2015 Club Participant Excellence Awardee, MR Rod MacLean, as  a candidate for the 2015 Midsouth Regional Participant of the Year Award.

This award has been written by our Chapter’s members so that we could explain Rod’s importance to each of our endeavors.  Rod has been the backbone of the Fayetteville Club’s efforts this past year.  Rod is the first one to volunteer when our Chapter Coordinator asks for help, but more importantly, he is always the first Chapter member to show up for all of our events.  He is usually the first one waiting at the Pechmann Center gate when Tom Carpenter shows up early to unlock it.  He knows all of the tasks which need to be performed to get ready for each type of event and he grabs the early birds, loads them in the Center’s Gator and heads down to the storage buildings to get things organized and get the different stations set up.  After this, he reports back to MR Carpenter to see what else he can do to assist.  He always brings first class pastries in for the volunteers to eat getting ready for the day’s event.  Rob was born in and grew up in England and he only provides pastries that are fit for the Queen.

Rod served as event leader for 2 main events during 2015 for the Pechmann Center and our chapter.  The first event was the NC Wildlife Wildlife Expo held at the Center.  This event had 14 different booths and our PHWFF Chapter was responsible for the plastic lure making station, the fly tying station, the fly casting station, selling PHWFF hats and T-shirts and the cooking and serving the lunch meal for all the participants.  Rod assisted all of the booths in whatever way he could before, during and after the expo.  He did such an excellent job that he was awarded a Fayetteville Chapter PHWFF trophy buckle for excellent.

Our Chapter’s biggest event of the year is our Marabou Madness Expo.  It was held last February at the Pechmann Center.  Roderick was everywhere during the event.  He spent most of his time assisting beginning fly tiers in keeping caught up.

Rod is one of those guys who is always there helping, never expecting anything in return.  It is so easy to overlook people who work hard, but never ask for anything or expound on their achievements.  The Fayetteville Club is one of the best in all of PHWFF because of Rod’s initiative, dedication, loyalty and selfless service.

new-england-participant-of-the-year-2015Michael Bousquet, New England Region
Winchendon, MA Program

Michael has never missed an event or tying session in his two years of involvement. He has secured materials and equipment so that he can tie at home between lessons and over the summer when we do not meet as a group. Mike has hosted tying sessions at his group home, for other Vets and to introduce others to our tying program. He regularly tries to recruit at gatherings of local Vets including stand-downs and Vets breakfast events.

He has, on two occasions, rented a vehicle (at his own expense) to transport himself and other Vets to fish stocking outings with our sponsor TU group and MA DF&W.

Mike is our first participant who has graduated from those ranks to become a mentor and class instructor. He accompanied me to brief the writer who is preparing an article for the AMC Outdoors magazine. The article is about our programs’ visit to Gorman-Chairback Lodge in Maine’s 100 mile wilderness.

In his own words: “The Winchendon, MA Chapter of Project Healing Waters has been a life changing experience for this USAF Veteran. This is my second season’s participation of Fly Fishing and Tying. This program has delivered everything that this disabled Vet could have imagined. As a novice I’ve truly been blessed with some natural ability in tying flies. While doing so, my limitations, the kind you can’t see, are quite diminished. I’ve been able to share this skill and instruct my brother Vets. Not to mention the realization of overcoming my physical limits has been nothing short of miraculous. For this I am forever grateful. Truly “HEALING THOSE WHO SERVE.”

Jason M Scrafford, Pennsylvania RegionWest Bradford, PA Program

Jason began his association with PHW as an inpatient at the CVAMC program in September of 2014.  He transferred to the West Bradford program upon his discharge from CVAMC in November of 2014 becoming our first participant

Throughout his participation, he consistently assisted other vet participants both at West Bradford and CVAMC with fly tying giving instruction and support. In mid 2015, we made the decision to form a steering team for our program to ensure we had adequate participant and volunteer input helping to ensure the program could continually refine our plans to meet the needs of our participants.  Jason enthusiastically volunteered as our participant member of the steering team.  Meeting every 2 to 3 months, his involvement has helped us remain focused on the participant needs.

Jason constantly requests and hands out business cards promoting our local program.  During late summer, Jason enthusiastically assisted in the combined presentation (CVAMC & West Bradford) to the Tulpehocken TU chapter as they considered starting a PHWFF program.  During that presentation, Jason silenced the meeting as he conveyed what PHWFF has meant to him personally as well as the other vet participants. In early fall, our program was invited to a PHWFF trip to Penns Creek.  Not only did Jason assist in the coordination of the trip he assumed a leadership role for other participants during that trip.

Always willing to make a statement, Jason assisted in the design of a classic Rangeley style streamer fly, the ‘West Bradford’.  He tied the fly and presented it to the West Bradford Fire Company as a thank you for the use of their facilities at our Christmas party.

As the winner of the 2015 Fly Tying Contest, Jason handled himself with dignity, humility and tact at the International Fly Tying Symposium.  In addition, he took it upon himself to tie a ‘West Bradford’ and present it to Richard Diamond as a token of thanks.  Always wanting to make a difference and represent both our program and PHW overall, he was a proud participant at the CVAMC Veterans Day Parade in Nov 2015, marching with our banner and other participants and volunteers from the West Bradford program.

Finally, as a token of appreciation to our host Mark Campbell at Penns Creek, Jason took the lead to acquire a Fenwick fly rod and a Martin Automatic reel to present to Mark who is now the PL of the Harrisburg PHWFF program.

“When I discharged from the Marines I had no job, I had no plan and I had no team …. PHWFF West Bradford has become my new team.”  – Jason Scrafford

Kristen Kiehl, National Capital Region
Walter Reed Program

phwff-kristen-kiehlSenior Master Chief Petty Officer (SMCPO) Kristen Kiehl is the National Capital 2015 Participant-of-the-Year. Kristen is an active and contributing Participant in the Walter Reed Program. Her selection for the Regional Award is based on a wide array of activities and contributions that she regularly brings to the Walter Reed Program, and her fellow Participants, and to PHWFF as well.

SMCPO Kiehl is fighting to overcome traumatic brain injury. Her injury makes it difficult for her to easily completely process information and organize her tasks. This leads to frustration and anger. A major part of her therapy is to continually challenge herself to make a significant effort to overcome the frustration. She does this by consistently contributing to others and maintaining an infectious sunny, warm, friendly disposition.  As a result, there is no doubt that Kristen Kiehl has become a major contributor to the camaraderie and closeness of the whole Walter Reed Program family. Her hugs are legendary. No one escapes, nor do they want to do so!

Because of Kristen’s love of fly fishing and her strong support for PHWFF, she enthusiastically works to “sell” the Program to non-Participants. She actively participates in essentially all of the Walter Reed Program’s outings and is known for voluntarily picking up warriors and vets and bringing them with her to the event. She is an outgoing strong advocate for the Water Reed Program. During meetings she regularly assumes the role of a Volunteer, as well as that of a Participant. She can be counted on to get equipment out of the locker and to put it away, both without being asked to help. She is an enthusiastic fly tier, and frequently goes out of her way to help other Participants who are just starting to tie flies.

During outings she constantly works to ensure that others are having a good time and are catching fish, and, yes, she fishs too, and does so very well. She actively participated in the Fly Tying Marathon in Alexandria, where the flies tied there were combined with those tied at the Marine Corps Museum and shipped to PHWFF Programs nationwide. She has gone on several of the PHWFF national trips including the Mossy Creek Invitational (MCI), and the Flint Rainbow Club Salmon Fishing Trip. At the MCI she won the trophy for the smallest fish caught. If the contest had ended 10 minutes later, she would have been in the competition for the largest fish, also!

She also works to connect with warriors outside of the meetings. This is particularly true of those in need. She calls them, meets them for lunch, takes them to appointments and participates in their hobbies. She will have the warrior and his or her family over to her home for dinner. In particular, there was one warrior struggling with a TBI case worse than Kristen’s.  She took him to art classes and to shows and brought him on outings.  She also brought a Vietnam vet who wasn’t a Participant at Walter Reed to several outings. He is her neighbor and Kristen discovered that he rarely came out of his apartment. She befriended him, brought him to several fishing trips and to other outings. Thanks to Kristen, he now comes to many Walter Reed meetings. She knew that, like herself, both of these individuals needed to be accepted and made a part of the group.

Fortunately for SMCPO Kiehl and the entire Walter Reed Program, she seldom misses a meeting or outing, which makes them enjoyable and healing for all. Kristen’s amazing impact on the entire Walter Reed Program makes her richly deserving to be named the National Capital Region Participant-of-the-Year.

tn-valley-participant-of-the-year-2015Tim Fletcher, Tennessee Valley Region
River City Program

“There are many great participants in the River City program however Tim stands well above the rest. Many may not be familiar with the name of Tim Fletcher because he has not been able to go on most trips due to his priority choices. Tim’s father has cancer and is going through a tough treatment. Tim takes his father to every appointment and is always by his side to help him with the smallest things. This is the type of guy that he is. You would not expect a Marine Sniper to have a heart that big but he is not your normal guy. As program lead I show up at a minimum several hours before our weekly class to set up equipment and have prep completed. Due to my injuries Tim knows that I have issues lifting and moving some of the supplies so he started showing up earlier to be there when I arrived to help move in and set up all the equipment. I have never arrived to class  before Tim. He is always there waiting for me to arrive so I’m not stubborn and move the heavy boxes I should not be moving. Tim always makes it to class and is the fastest learner. He began tying flies right after having shrapnel removed from his shoulder. He not only learned to tie flies one handed but with his non dominate hand. He continues to give back to Project Healing Waters and has shown an amazing transformation from a shell of a man to a man I am honored to be his friend. Tim always helps others out in class and is the first to give up his vice to help teach individuals when we have larger numbers of participants. He continues to help me throughout the class, helps me pack up and load my truck. You will always see Tim being the last one to leave the parking lot because he ensures everyone to include myself leaves okay. I can not think of anyone more deserving to receive this award than Tim. He is more than the participant of the year but a guy that gives all and asks for nothing in return. Of my 5 years of being heavily involved in PHWFF I have never seen anyone as dedicated or as active in the program than Tim. I hope after reading this you can see he is the clear winner and deserves this honor and much more thanks than I can give to him alone. Tim was referred to my program after attending the Memphis VA program and Ken agrees 100% with my choice. Thanks for your time in reading this.”  – JT Turner, Program Lead

Tom Reust, Midwest Region
Indianapolis, IN Program

Tom started to participate in the Indianapolis program very positive and picked up fly fishing and fly tying quickly. Over the past year he has become a mentor for other veteran participants teaching fly-casting and fly tying. He also helps out at FF expos and demonstrations with out being asked. A true spokesperson for PHWFF.

fl-participants-of-the-year-2015Harold and Debra Bell, Florida Region
Tampa, FL Program

Debra and Harold Bell, both former United States Army soldiers, are fly fishing snowbirds from northern Wisconsin who joined the Tampa program in 2014 and learned to fly fish, build fly rods, and tie flies for the first time from two Active Duty military program volunteers serving a tour of duty at MacDill Air Force Base.  Our program welcomes both of them for six months each year when they pack their truck and camper to escape the cold weather and leave their five-acre farm for sunny Florida.

Harold served 22 faithful years in the Army as a medic.  A tall and stocky man with penetrating eyes, he was the fear of probably most recruits as a drill sergeant. He never forgets a face and gives a firm handshake. A motorcycle accident later left him with a head injury and communications disorder.  Through the speech therapy at the VA and the Adaptive Sports programs it has been amazing to see the tremendous recovery with Harold. But it has been Harold’s own personal determination and mental strength, the love and encouragement and positive attitude of a faithful wife and their two sons, their devout beliefs and countless blessings, and the solitude and beauty of a fly fishing outing that all continue to contribute to his recovery.  Harold currently holds the record in our program for catching over 15 trout in single day on a South Carolina river.

Deb was an x-ray specialist and truck driver in the Army for 13 years.  Deb can be easily spotted in any crowd.  You only have to look for the women wearing red, white and blue and who is always smiling, meeting new people, talking about her husband of a 33-year marriage or their two sons, and sharing some recent fishing story through pictures on her phone. Don’t underestimate her short stature because underneath all that is a spirited, energetic, strong woman who has more endurance and stamina to outlast most.  Deb is always eager to learn something new and fly fishing is new to both her and Harold. There is not a fly fishing day trip, meeting, fundraiser or weekend outing they have missed during their stay. Provided the limitations her husband has from his injury, Deb is always by his side helping in any way. Drive around the family campground or beach on MacDill Air Force Base on any day and you will find both of them unloading rods and coolers, cast nets and chairs from a car for a day of relaxation and fishing. Deb is an absolute pleasure to be around and has made great friendships with all our participants and volunteers. Deb is always giving of her time and energy to our program with Harold by her side. Deb will tell you that it is the volunteers who have a deep commitment to the military veterans, their families, and fly fishing that brought her to our Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing program.

There is also something very special about this amazing couple – they are truly a military family with two sons who are both currently serving in the Army and Air Force. Often times their son serving at MacDill, and also a fly fisherman, will attend a fly tying event.

Our program has been enriched having known this amazing couple.  Their dedication to each other and commitment to give their best are the trademarks of PHWFF and makes them uniquely qualified as our participants of the year for the Florida region.

paul-hustonPaul Huston, Northwest Region
Fort Lewis, WA Program

“His participation with the WTB at FT Lewis, WA. Has been both inspirational and validation of the mission and goals of Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing.

Over the past five/six years, he started as an active participant willing to learn all things fly fishing. His expertise in fly tying, casting, rod building has grown to the point I am considering bringing him on as a volunteer. A position I know he will willingly accept and will greatly expand the FT. Lewis program in every aspect of fly fishing.

He has always been willing to share his fly fishing expertise with other veterans and his military experience has provided him with unique mentor and teacher skills. He can always be found in the thick of things during fly tying sessions and fishing trips. On numerous occasions he has been the guy who gets our weekly fly tying sessions going when either I or other volunteers may be running late. This has been critical to the success at our Ft Lewis program in that soldiers at the Ft Lewis WTB always know we will be there on time and ready to start tying.

When we are on the water fishing he can be found sharing fishing tips, sharing flies, helping with casting lessons, and is always willing to bring his drift boat to insure we get everyone on the water. At times he has even been able to help other veterans with small talk and emotional help.

His participation, mentorship, and willingness to share has provided us with that set of extra hands that has made the FT Lewis program so special. When he moves to volunteer statues with us it will truly show that PHW is a fishing for life program and that vets helping other vets is what we are all about.

Paul is an Army veteran, who is married and has four very active sons. In the past twelve years he has been on three combat deployments and one NATO Peace Keeping deployment.” – Regional Coordinator Chuck Tye

dave-pechotaDave Pechota, New York/New Jersey Region 

Dave is an Air Force veteran who has  participated in the program for about three years.  Without any previous fly fishing or tying experience he has become an expert tier of both salt and fresh water patterns. This year he has served as a volunteer tying instructor for the program. Dave’s learning abilities and enthusiasm have contributed greatly to the success of our program,both as an example of the program’s effectiveness in teaching him and his teaching others.

Toni Wallis, Southwest Region
Phoenix, AZ Program

img_7806-1Toni was in the initial cadre of participants when we started the Phoenix program in 2013. In that first year she was selected as one of two outstanding participants in the Phoenix program.  She is active and competent in all phases of the program, attending more scheduled events than any other veteran.  She built two rods for the national competitions incorporating advanced thread and cork handle enhancements she adapted from on-line videos.   Toni has briefed both the Phoenix and Gilbert classes on her lessons learned from the competitions and will be assisting the participants in the upcoming rod building sessions.

As an active PHW participant, Toni was offered membership in the Arizona Flycasters Club and has taken full advantage of the additional opportunities by attending advanced fly tying classes, educational classes, monthly meetings, and outings.  She has encouraged other participants to expand their range of opportunities.  To enhance her ability to give back to PHW, Toni is taking a series of “train-the-casting trainer” classes to learn how to teach casting other participants.

Toni, as an ambassador, has done an excellent job representing the program. She completed qualifications and became an Arizona Game and Fish Department ‘Certified Angling Instructor’ and volunteers to teach fly fishing at AZGFD open-to-the-public events and at our PHW orientation outings.  She has been recruited and volunteers as a fly fishing instructor for the Arizona Wildlife Federation’s 3 day “Becoming an Outdoor Woman” Programs given several times a year around the state.   She also volunteers at the VA Hospital.

At our monthly staff planning meetings Toni is the only participant to regularly attend and actively contributes good ideas and a “vet” perspective when necessary.    She helps with recruiting new participants and with orientation planning.  After helping with earlier events, Toni singlehandedly organized and ran our December Holiday Party in the park, when 55 vets, volunteers, friends and family members were well fed and had a great time.

The “Hooked on Healing” motorcycle ride sponsored by the San Tan Valley Rotary Club is scheduled for late February.  Phoenix PHW will be a major recipient of the profits from that event.  Toni was asked to be one of four members of the joint steering committee with the Rotary and has been working hard since last summer to make it a success.

In December, Toni was elected the Board of Directors of Arizona Flycasters Club.  She is the first PHW participant to join the Board.  It is a fitting and well deserved honor for this  remarkable woman and reflects great credit upon Project Healing Waters.

Kyle Chanitz, Virginia Region
Salem, Virginia Program

kyle-picKyle joined us unannounced and unexpected on March 3, 2015, at the Salem VAMC program’s monthly fly tying session at the DAV Community Hall.  A thirty year old disabled Army veteran of three combat tours in Afghanistan, he had never fished, let alone fly fished, in his life.  In the next two hours he learned to tie flies.  He went home that night and ordered a fly tying kit.  By weeks end he had tied over 200 flies, filling a fly box.  He asked for more materials from our program supplies.  His tying skills increased exponentially to the point that his parachute Adams won the “Best of Show” award at the Salem Fair.  He is now instructing at our monthly sessions.

Besides fishing locally on his own, he has been on six organized fishing trips in Virginia, and a National Destination Trip to Michigan for salmon.  He completed the Virginia Region guide seminar in June, and in July guided one of our blind participants, out-fishing all the others.  He built his first fly rod in August, a Rain Shadow, 6 weight, using a unique marbling effect on the blank that should easily win recognition at the next national rod building contest.

Kyle’s value to the Salem VAMC program cannot be overstated.   He helps with our program activities without being asked.  He has not missed a single scheduled event since joining us.  He has been a loyal brother, interceding to help other brothers through crisis, guiding them through the many facets of the VA system to get precisely the help they needed.  He has been an articulate ambassador in our efforts to recruit new participants and the success we’ve enjoyed in this regard is largely attributed to Kyle.  At our spring fishing derby designed to attract new participants, Kyle was one of three interviewed by the newspaper with the resulting article garnering even more participants to our program.  In June, he manned our Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing display booth for three days at the Virginia DAV conference hosted in Roanoke that drew several new participants to our program.  In July, the Mental Health Intensive Case Management team at the VAMC selected Kyle and three others from tens of thousands of patients to address the attendees to the Mental Health Summit.  The sixty-plus attendees applauded his presentation on how PHWFF changed his life, and importantly, started to send new participants our way.  It is a treat to accompany Kyle while wandering throughout the VAMC campus.  Everyone seems to know and like this impressive young man who volunteers at the drop of a hat.

fishRobert Fletcher, West Virginia Region
Huntington, WV Program

Robert has been in the Huntington Program for 5 years, has won a place in the National Fly Contest, very active in all activities and all around great guy helping other participants on projects

In his words: “I grew up in Greenup County Ky.  I joined the Navy on 12 Sept 1989. I was discharged from the Navy on 15 Oct 1992. At the time of discharge I was an E-4. In 1994 I joined the Ky. Army National Guard. I was in the 201st ENBN. In 2002 I made the rank of E-5. In 2008 I went to Afghanistan and returned in 2009. while I was there I was involved in a road side bomb. After that I retired from the military on 30 April 2012. Next, sometime about 2010 or 2011, I got into  the Huntington Wv. group of Project Healing Waters. I have been in the program for about 5 years. While in the program I was a 3rd place winner in a national fly tying contest.”

Ken Shortmann, Heartland Region