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Local Wounded Warrior event aids war vets

Organizer promotes fly fishing to help rehab wounded veterans
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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After serving two tours in Iraq, Jessica Oliff spent four days last October fly fishing and relaxing in a preserve near Foresthill.

She was the first female veteran to attend the local Horseshoe Bar Preserve Wounded Warrior Project, which aids injured service members as they transition from active duty to civilian life.

“It was really cool,” Oliff, 28, said. “I was with a whole bunch of vets. I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. I have flashbacks and panic attacks. With fly fishing, you have to be precise and when I was thinking about it, I wasn’t thinking about the bad stuff.”

The third-annual local Wounded Warrior event takes place Oct. 2 to Oct. 6 at the Horseshoe Bar Preserve. Granite Bay resident Tom Bartos founded the preserve in 2007 and started the camping trip in 2009 for young veterans who return from war with serious physical and mental injuries.

Last year, seven Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans participated.

“We continue to evaluate and expand on what we are trying to do to help rehabilitate those that attend,” Bartos said. “Our goal this year is to develop a matrix to evaluate the event and also how we can extend and measure the long-term effectiveness of what we are doing.”

To do that, organizers are asking fly fishing club members located near each veteran to act as mentors and keep the veterans involved in the sport. Bartos will request periodic reports on the progress of these efforts.

“Fly fishing has proven to be very valuable in helping veterans rehabilitate both physically and mentally,” he said, which he bases on his observations and those of his co-organizers.

But organizers have struggled to arrange the mentorships because they don’t know until the last minute how many veterans will attend the camping trip and where they live.

Some veterans withdraw due to medical problems or they commit to coming but then fail to show. Bartos said this might be due to vets with post-traumatic stress disorder having memory loss or trouble making decisions.

During last year’s event, Oliff learned how to fly fish with the help of Daniel Galhardo of Tenkara USA. Tenkara originated in the mountain streams of Japan in which only a rod, line and fly are used.

Bartos said this method doesn’t have a reel and relies on braided lines and a delicate touch, which is helpful for veterans who have lost a hand. Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.

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Horseshoe Bar Preserve Wounded Warrior event
When:
Sunday, Oct. 2 to Thursday, Oct. 6
Where: Horseshoe Bar Preserve near Foresthill
Cost: Free. To sponsor, donate or attend the event, please contact Tom Bartos at (916) 205-6073 or e-mail hbp@surewest.net
Info: visit www.horseshoebarpreserve.com