As a little boy I used to sit on my grand father's lap and they told me stories of World War II both the good and the bad. My mom's dad was a POW on Guam and my Father's Dad was POW in the Philippines. My grandfather on my dad's side (Apong) told me how he joined at the promise to protect his people and to become a United States Citizen and making a better life for his family. My father, also a combat Veteran served in Vietnam, told me tails of what an honor it was to repay the country he loved so much, by dedicating a portion of his life, to the people who stayed true to their word, by providing a better life for an immigrant family. Red, white, and blue was in my blood and I joined the United States Army Sept 2010. I deployed shortly after in 2011, where I made some of the funniest and life changing memories. After my deployment I was stationed in Korea, where I had the privilege to serve alongside my brother-in-law. Fort Carson, Colorado Springs, was my final duty station and where I would meet my wife. By this point in time, alcohol, insomnia, night terrors, depression, and anxiety took over my life. However, I made a promise to my then fiancé, that would become healthy and become the man that I was supposed to be. I acknowledged that something was wrong and was later diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety, and depression. This explained why I did not want to leave the house, how a social person like myself began to shy away from people, why Walmart was extremely hard, etc
The acknowledgement that something was wrong began my journey of healing, but it did not come without its hardships. Two years into my then fiancé’s, relationship, it was hard for me to be social, which impacted our relationship. I still did not want to go out, I was still finding it hard to make friends, and I felt like I was holding my wife back from what life had to offer. However, she came to every therapy appointment with me, sat in the room as I began to process and told me that “it is okay, and I am doing hard work to ensure a better future.'' I'm not going to sit here and say that I am better, in fact I am far from it. Instead those words encouraged me to get back into school, get serious about treatment, and figure out my life after the military.
Two years after that statement, I feel like I am still in the same place, but I am open about my trauma and I am still in therapy. However, something was still dragging me down and weighing heavy on my body. One day during therapy it dawned on me, that I still did not want to make friends or go out and be social. It was not until one of my colleagues put a fly rod in my hand and hooked me on to my first Kokanee of the season. I didn't know what I was doing but all I heard "was great cast", "set the hook", and lots of laughter. From that moment, I was hooked (pun intended) to fly fishing. I went to Walmart and got me a $30 rod and we hike every weekend, in search of the "greatest catch". What fly fishing has allowed me to do, is take the healing process a step further and create a social network of people I call friends, I spent the night away, for the first time since my wife and I started this therapeutic journey together, and built a brotherhood based on laughs and fishing youtubes and not on what our pain looks like from the outside.
In 2017, I worked as a case manager housing homeless veteran in the city of Denver and now I manage the building. I put on 15 events a year for my brothers and sisters to provide them with a social network that they have the ability to lean on. Most importantly I develop partnership with other non-profits and city organizations to be able to provide Veterans with peer-to-peer support through outdoor activities. Upon taking this position, I did not know what was my calling, but through the sport of fly fishing, I have been able to find a program that lets me take my passion and turn it into my everyday work environment to help fuel the passions of my brothers and sisters in arms.
Two years ago, I would have never been able to do this, and I tribute a lot of this progression to fly fishing. I have been able to create a social outlet that my wife and I enjoy, I am able to walk into Walmart and Costco, and have a “let’s do this” attitude about therapy. Although I am far from done with my journey to healing, I am on the right path.
Bless you brother!