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Heroes Mending on the Fly: Program helps injured servicemen get back on their feet

Facilitator Tom Stein ties a fly in a workshop held as part of the Heroes Mending on the Fly program. - Contributed
Facilitator Tom Stein ties a fly in a workshop held as part of the Heroes Mending on the Fly program. - Contributed

Fly tying, casting, fishing leads to rehabilitation

GREENWOOD, N.S. —

Sometimes sharing a challenging activity with people who have lived similar experiences can start you down a path to healing and rehabilitation.

That’s how facilitator Tom Stein of Victoria Harbour, a military veteran, views the Heroes Mending on the Fly Canada (HMFC) program. Originally partnered with the Healing Waters program in the United States, HMFC has been around for several years. It is run by volunteers and is not for profit.

HMFC is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military personnel and disabled veterans with operational stress injuries such as PTSD, for example. It’s all about getting them active and involved again. As Stein said, it can be a big step to take.

Stein said program participants meet weekly for a couple of hours at the Greenwood Military Family Resource Centre. HMFC involves fly-tying, fly-fishing and associated activities – including fishing trips. The program is free of charge to participants.

The program recently expanded into Nova Scotia under team leader Ray MacEachern, who is based in Halifax. Stein and his wife moved to Nova Scotia from the Petawawa area last year. He wanted to see HMFC established here. He asked about it and was pleased to be given the opportunity to do so.

The program is running in the Valley for the first time this spring and Stein hopes to run it again this fall. He first became involved in a similar program in Petawawa, Ontario, and said it did “amazing” things for him.

“It kind of brought me out of my shell and got me around peers and brothers and sisters of the military again,” he said. “It was good healing, good therapy.”

Stein believes a lot of the healing power of programs like this comes from being around peers who are contending with similar issues.

“I think that tying the flies sometimes is secondary to the real therapy,” he said.

However, fly tying challenges you. You have to learn certain techniques that don’t seem so simple at the beginning and sometimes it takes “a surgeon’s hand.” Stein said the activity can also be rather calming.

The feeling of the water rushing past your legs while standing in a river with waders on also carries healing attributes, especially for those with physical injuries. There’s no substitute for the one-on-one with nature.

While emphasis will be placed on providing these activities to existing and retired members of the Canadian military, participants from other organizations - such as the RCMP, other police agencies, firefighters and paramedics – with past military service will be included.

He said there would be a casting clinic on June 1 with a professional fly caster giving instruction. The current program session culminates with a fly-fishing and salmon fishing trip to Cape Breton’s Margaree River in mid-June.

Stein said the Valley HMFC chapter wouldn’t be possible without the support of the Nova Scotia-Nunavut Command of the Royal Canadian Legion. The Greenwood Military Family Resource Centre, its Veteran Family Program Coordinator and many other volunteers have also played integral roles.

He said anyone interested in getting involved in the fall session can contact him by email at steinomitey@gmail.com.

Kirk.starratt@kingscountynews.ca

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