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The PHW Spotlight is our way of shining a bright light on those members of our PHW family whose accomplishments and contributions inspire us all. 

These individuals, and their stories, are an essential part of the healing journey happening for Veterans across the country. Project Healing Waters transcends fly fishing and these Spotlights are a glimpse into what is happening throughout our programs. We are honored to share these with you each week.

This week’s Spotlight deservedly points at Mikel Sargent. His passing was an enormous loss for Project Healing Waters in West Virginia, but his impacts on not only the Lewisburg Program but across the country are made clear by Veteran participants and volunteers alike every day. “Mikel was an excellent example of what PHW should be about,” said Terry Keenan, Regional Coordinator for the WV region. “He went from a new participant who was struggling with his own demons to someone who grew within the program and as a participant/volunteer, mentored others by sharing his experiences. We will miss him greatly, but will carry on our mission as he would want us to.”


Mikel Sargent – U.S. Army Veteran

When Did You Serve?

1988-1996.

Project Healing Waters Program:

Started in PHW Beckley, helped form PHW Lewisburg

Why Did You Join Project Healing Waters?

While at the VA Hospital, he was told about Project Healing Waters. He waited a couple of weeks before attending a PHW meeting at the Beckley WV Veterans Hospital. He was hooked during the first meeting. Mikel was there for every meeting. COVID happened, and meetings were shut down for a while. But when the meetings resumed, so did Mikel.

A Bit More About Mikel:

Mikel Sargent was born and raised in Mullens, WV, and graduated from Mullens High School in 1988. In December of 1988, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. After boot camp and advanced individual training (AIT), he was transferred to Germany where he served as Motor Sergeant until Operation Desert Storm. Mikel was then transferred to Desert Storm, where he served as Motor Sergeant and Wrecker Operator for 13 months. After his tour, he was again stationed in Germany and was honorably discharged in 1996.

After Mikel completed his military service, he returned to the U.S. and started working as a Traveling Master Auto Technician, and worked in the service departments of many auto dealerships. It was during this time that he started receiving his medical care from the U.S. Veterans Hospitals.

In 2008, Mikel entered the coal mines where he eventually became an Underground Boss. He worked there until PTSD and heart problems took him out of the mines in 2016. At this point, he spent a couple of years hanging out and working at the family farm while falling further into despair.

While at the VA Hospital, he was told about Project Healing Waters. He waited a couple of weeks before attending a PHW meeting at the Beckley WV Veterans Hospital. He was hooked during the first meeting. Mikel was there for every meeting. COVID happened, and meetings were shut down for a while. But when the meetings resumed, so did Mikel.

Mikel passed away unexpectedly on July 25, 2023. He was a major force in starting up the program in Lewisburg, WV, where he most recently served as Assistant Program Lead. He loved working with The Greenbrier Resort, where the program would meet, and was proud to haul the Project Healing Waters trailer to meetings and events. He had a new lease on life, and he was “eating, drinking, and sleeping” everything about Project Healing Waters. He was back with his military family, and he made a positive difference in the lives of others.

“Mikel was an excellent example of what PHW should be about,” said Terry Keenan, Regional Coordinator for the WV region. “He went from a new participant who was struggling with his own demons to someone who grew within the program and as a participant/volunteer, mentored others by sharing his experiences. We will miss him greatly, but will carry on our mission as he would want us to.”

In April of 2023, he attended a PHW event with Ward Burton thanks to the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation, and he said it was one of the greatest trips of his life. He also caught his first ever musky on a fly during the 2022 Eric Workman Memorial Musky Tournament, and won the participant division. Mikel loved everything about Project Healing Waters, and we are so grateful to have known him. We know that Mikel is fishing those healing waters up above now, and he will be forever missed.


The PHW Spotlight will publish each Friday morning on www.projecthealingwaters.org. Learn more about this inspiring series HERE

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