Twenty years after September 11, a group of post-September 11 veterans received a special trip to honor their service in the fight against terrorism.
Platte Rivers Veterans Fly Fishing, a 10-year all-volunteer nonprofit veterans support organization, took 19 veterans to New Mexico on Friday for a weekend fly fishing on the San Juan River.
The veterans were joined by a retired New York City firefighter who worked at Ground Zero, along with eight others – fishing guides and mentors to help with logistics and organization. The group left Fort Collins on Friday morning, headed for southwest Colorado and into the Navajo Dam in all four corners.
Platte Rivers Veterans Fly Fishing has the motto “Water does not bear scars”, using fly fishing and group therapy as a means of therapy to help a veteran who may be going through a difficult time.
Most of the veterans served by PRVFF are from northern Colorado and Wyoming. The trip is funded by donations, said PRVFF president Joe O’Connor, a resident of Loveland. O’Connor, 53, first met the organization about six years ago and became good friends with founder Duane Cook, who passed away in December.
âI want to take my passion for fly fishing to a level that helps others,â said O’Connor. “We want to ensure that the future of Platte Rivers continues to prosper and grow.”
Fort Collins resident Kevin Sheehan spent 20 years as a firefighter in New York City before retiring in 2003. Sheehan worked at Ground Zero after the World Trade Center terrorist attacks, where he lost about 25 close friends of the firefighters .
Sheehan said he discovered the healing powers of water after 9/11. Living on Long Island and while working with FDNY, Sheehan found employment in a village on Fire Island in the southern part of Suffolk County.
Sheehan used the proximity to the Atlantic Ocean as a place to go when he needed a break to think or cry as he continued to deal with the trauma of 9/11.
âIt was good for me,â Sheehan said. âThe Atlantic Ocean doesn’t have any scars, and every time I had a really bad day I would sit on the steps and look at the Atlantic. I would sit there and clear my mind, and it helped me sort things out emotionally.
When Sheehan and his family moved to Colorado in 2006, he worked for O’Connor and learned about fly fishing. O’Connor then spoke to Sheehan of Platte Rivers, mentioning that veterans from Long Island were involved. Sheehan was interested enough to try.
âI might not know everything about fly fishing, but at least I could be there for a conversation,â he said. âIt was good for me and good for the veterans. I see them fishing and I see the smiles on their faces, and it’s so nice and refreshing to me that these guys get something out of it.
Sheehan said that while the PRVFF is a good resource for veterans, there are other organizations available to help. Sheehan mentioned the Veterans Crisis Line at www.veteranscrisisline.net, which is free and confidential.
September is Suicide Prevention Month, and additional information is also available from the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
Veterans can contact the Crisis Line by phone, text or online chat. There is also support for deaf or hard of hearing veterans.
The Veterans Crisis Line has answered more than 5.6 million calls and has initiated dispatching emergency services to callers in crisis more than 204,000 times since its launch in 2007, according to the website.