VFW Magazine — September 2017
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Fly Fishing Therapeutic For Vets
Janie Dyhouse


Carlon Perry liked to fish when he was a child. Somewhere along the way, though, he stopped. That is, until he was introduced to Rivers of Recovery, a rehabilitation program, based in Minnesota.

“I had not fished for 50 years,” the commander of Post 6311 in Manteca, Calif., said. “I really believe in this program.”

Established in 2008 by proprietary trader-turned-outdoor adventurer Dan T. Cook, Rivers of Recovery takes six to 10 combat vets who have Post Traumatic Stress, minor Traumatic Brain Injury, stress, anxiety or depression on four day fishing excursions. The trips are designed to build confidence and provide talk therapy.

Perry, who served as an Army MP in Korea in 1967, said more than 40 members of his Post have had the opportunity to go on a Rivers of Recovery trip. He recalls one member in particular, who rarely attended Post meetings or functions because of the large crowds.

“He was just not comfortable in that type of setting, so he just didn’t get out of his house very much,” Perry said. “But he went on a fishing trip, and he got to know people and now he is one of the most active members in the Post.”

Another Post member, Jose Jauregui, is now the director of guiding operations,which means he is responsible for managing each camp.

At 19, Jauregui was on patrol with the 2nd Bn., 17th Field Artillery Regt., 2nd Inf. Div., on April 16, 2005, in Iraq, when an enemy mortar exploded. The three other soldiers with him were killed. More than half of his body was covered in third-degree burns. He had a 3 percent chance of survival.

Jauregui prevailed. He spent nearly two years in the hospital, most of that time at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, before returning home to Stockton, Calif.

“I met other veterans around me going through similar things,” he said. “When we go on these trips, you just instantly bond without knowing each other. They see me going through the same stuff as they are, and I think we help each other. That’s what it’s all about.”

The cost is about $2,500 per veteran, but due to donations, it’s cost free to veterans. Each participant also walks away with about $500 worth of new fishing equipment. Perry’s Post has donated to the program in the past.

Gunny Reyes, also a member of Post 6311, is a Rivers of Recovery board member. He said there are currently fishing trips available in Oregon, California, Colorado, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Connecticut and most recently, Michigan’s Pierre Marquette River.

Reyes always had a love of fly fishing. Being in the Marines from 1995- 2009, he didn’t have a lot of time for it. When he got out of the Marines, his boss told him he should check out Rivers of Recovery, so he did.

Reyes said the trip reignited his enthusiasm for fishing. He began volunteering on trips to help other veterans and eventually became a board member.

“Rivers of Recovery re-connected me with myself and what I love to do,” said Reyes, who served with the 1st Bn., 1st Marines, 1st Marine Div., in Afghanistan in 2001 (he was among the first Marines in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks). “Once you see what this does for veterans, you’ll see it’s amazing. This is a very rewarding program.”

Perry agreed.

“It’s not just fishing. It’s about bonding and being able to come back better than when we left,” he said. “I don’t want to say it changes their lives, but it changes their views on life. And now they go out with their new equipment and their new friends and have fun.”

For more information, visit www. riversofrecovery.org.

EMAIL jdyhouse@vfw.org

LEFT: Members of Post 6311 in Manteca, Calif., in March at the Rivers of Recovery Lodge in Redding, Calif. Rivers of Recovery aims to combat PTSD, as well as stress and anxiety in veterans by taking groups fly fishing. Several Manteca VFW members – some pictured here – are on staff, volunteer their time and have participated in fishing excursions. From left, Gunny Reyes, Jose Jauregui, Jim Barbour, Raul Miranda, Johnny Unipeg, Steven Smith, Christopher McVicker, Derek McGinnis, Don Jaramillo and VFW Post 6311 Commander Carlon Perry.

“It’s not just fishing. It’s about bonding and being able to come back better than when we left.”

Carlon Perry, Commander, VFW Post 6311

Rivers of Recovery Founder Makes a Difference

Founder Dan T. Cook left a 15-year career in the financial industry in 2006. He had worked as a proprietary trader for corporations such as AIG Trading, Duke Energy and Shell Oil.

He ventured out on a 75,000-mile journey around the world. This trip was the springboard for Rivers of Recovery (RoR) in 2008. Cook personally paid for the first two years’ programs.

“I felt it was important to share the art of fly fishing and the great outdoors with veterans to assist with their recovery and rehabilitation,” Cook said. “What differentiates RoR is we use the outdoors and these outdoor activities that build a sense of confidence and self-empowerment. It’s the perfect platform that helps to bring in these techniques to help manage and mitigate PTSD, anxiety and depression.”