Gift of the Outdoors for Veterans

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POLK TOWNSHIP -- An organization that helps veterans with emotional and physical disabilities through fly fishing made the outdoors even more accessible to one vet on Wednesday.

Getting veterans out on streams such as the one near Kresgeville is what Project Healing Waters is known for.

Volunteer mentors teach the vets with physical and emotional disabilities to fly fish as a form of therapy.

But for Vietnam vet Mike Brojakowski from Avoca, the organization took the mission to get him fishing even further: a track chair.  It's pretty much an all-terrain wheelchair, provided through an anonymous donor.

"Now I can go in the woods, go ice fishing. Anything I want to do, this will do it," Brojakowski said.

Mike has been through a lot since coming home from Vietnam.  He missed his days in the outdoors.

"He actually cried tears of joy and so did three, four of the people in our program," said Heide Cebrick of Project Healing Waters. "He is ecstatic, and we are thrilled for him because now he's going to be able to go to a lot of places and fish where he hasn't been able to do since he was young."

Mike's chair is just one example of how Healing Waters is about more than just getting veterans out to fish. It's about helping them year round and giving them the respect they deserve.

"It's very relaxing. It's very peaceful, and the whole day is centered on them and showing them we appreciate them," Cebrick said.

Iraq War vet Josh Cromley from Milton sees how this is therapy.

"Just wonderful, free, get to enjoy the wildlife," he said.

The flowing water, peace from casting, and the thrill of catching are meant to help ease post-traumatic stress disorder and other post-war issues.

Mike now has greater access to what he has learned truly are healing waters.

"I covered a lot of ground going back to where I was.  It teaches me how to deal with my problems and work it out."

Project Healing Waters does programs for the vets during the winter, too, learning to tie flies for fishing and even making their own poles.

Click here for more information on Project Healing Waters.

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