CANEY FORK RIVER, Tenn. - An innovative program helps soldiers better cope with post traumatic stress once they return home. Many leave the horrors of the battlefield behind and escape to a trout-filled river in middle Tennessee.
"Sleeping at night is the biggest struggle I have; the things that go through my mind," said Pete Stanton.
He understands the personal sacrifice made in combat better than most. The Purple Heart recipient was injured four times in separate tours of duty in Panama, Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I don't like being around big groups. I don't like being out in public," said Stanton, a Marine sniper. "I have nightmares, flashbacks, and panic attacks."
Stanton said things change when he heads out to the Caney Fork River near Carthage. He and fellow injured soldiers are the guests of Middle Tennessee Fly Fishers as part of the Healing Waters Project.
"We're proud to do it for them," said Larry Rollins with the Fly Fishers. "From the time they arrive here to the time they leave you see their whole demeanor change."
Many of the soldiers have never fished with a cane pole, much less a fly rod. Each is matched up with a volunteer guide and they head out on the river for a day of fun and relaxation.
"Everything just seems to melt away and it's just here and now," said Stanton.
He said the river is one of the few places he feels at ease and can smile. They call it therapy with a rod and reel. And afterward, Stanton said he is able to sleep the whole night through.
The Middle Tennessee Fly Fishers team with Project Healing Waters takes local soldiers out on the river at least once a year.