I never remember a time when I wanted to be anything else than a soldier. As a small child I would wear my fathers service cap and play soldier from sun up till sun down. Somehow my friends and I even turned fishing into something related to soldiering.
I came by this desire to serve by birth. I am 5th generation Army and I bleed black and gold. Patriotism runs deep and the love of the outdoors goes hand in hand with that.
Every year my extended family and friends would load up and we would head out to fish and hunt in the great wilderness areas of the US and Canada. When we weren’t on fishing trips we would meet at the river each weekend. I always felt most alive and most at peace in the wilderness. I honed my skills and craft on many river banks and felt the allure of nature more every time I experienced it.
I enlisted as soon as I could. I left home in Tennessee and within my first year as a combat medic, I had deployed to Iraq. The next 22 years flew by like the breeze in 11 Mile Canyon, fast and hard but oh so worth it. In the end when I left the US Army to join the CIA, I had nine combat deployments. I had a life time of memories and a foot locker full of pain but I cherish every day I was blessed to serve along side the greatest men in the greatest war fighting military ever assembled.
Between the never ending cycle of deployments, training and duty station changes I married my high school sweetheart, got my commission, we raised two beautiful daughters and built our homes in Colorado and Tennessee. We sought seclusion in the wilderness to spend time with each other, to make up for all the months and years we lost, to make memories and to heal our hearts. Much of this healing was on the banks of our favorite rivers and streams. The South Platte, The Cumberland, The Tennessee, The Gunnison, The Arkansas and The Snake were on many occasions our church. We fished, we laughed, we loved and we cried for those who no longer could have days like we had. The same wilderness that as a kid gave me life, brought me back to it again.
Time passed and the pull to my family the mountains brought me to the decision to leave the CIA. I came home to turn the page, to start a new chapter and to spend the rest of my days living, loving and laughing with the ones I love in the places I love.
I live on the water. My time allows me to think, to remember and to teach others how they can heal their wounds. On the river, I am at perfect peace. My faith, my family and my favorite fishing spot hold me strong and I am blessed to mentor countless youth and young adults so that I can share the stories of things I did well, the things I did wrong and the things that make it all worth while.
I spend my days now working at The Children’s Hospital of Colorado where every day I get to work to make the life of ill and injured kids better. Who knows, maybe, just maybe, some of them will serve our country and some may just find themselves on the bank of a river and find out a lot more about life than they ever thought possible.
Robert W. Hamblin