SAN MARCOS, Texas — When military veterans come home from serving overseas, the things they experienced often leave a lasting mark.
Project Healing Waters is a nonprofit dedicated to mending the wounds of war through fly fishing.
"We put a fly rod in their hand, we bring them out to the river, we get them outdoors, and they can begin to share experiences with each other," Project Healing Waters Program Leader Mike Schlimgen said.
A local chapter of the national organization meets in San Marcos on Friday mornings. Those involved say the camaraderie of fishing can be the best medicine.
"For me the most relaxing activities are when I can kind of shut my brain down a little bit," Army Veteran Glen Stevenson said. "When I come out fly fishing all I'm thinking about is casting and [I] just relax and stare out over the water and kind of don't think about anything."
For some of the veterans, war left a lot to think about.
"Anybody that had my job down on the ground was a recipient of the Purple Heart if you were with my unit,” Army Veteran Blake Holbrook said. “We had five guys who were killed over there."
Holbrook served in Baghdad from 2004 to 2005.
"I had a guy next to me get shot in the head by a sniper. And that was just kind of an everyday occurrence,” Holbrook said. “So your body starts adapting to that. You start looking around your entire environment like there's a sniper all the time and that leaves a whole lot of paranoia."
The paranoia continued into Holbrook's return to civilian life, leaving him addicted to alcohol and painkillers.
"I didn't like my life. And I was very close several times to ending it."
But 5 years ago Holbrook decided to get clean and to rediscover the land he bled for. Holbrook said he hopes his story can inspire other veterans who are struggling to reintegrate after serving their country.
"Nature inherently will heal you if you let it," Holbrook said.
If you or someone you know might be interested in participating in Project Healing Waters, you can go to their Facebook page at facebook.com/PHWFFSanAntonioSanMarcos.