By Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D.

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Once upon a time there was a very young boy who lived an incredibly difficult childhood. He was the oldest son of a family of five children – two younger sisters, one brother and a step brother. At eleven years old he became homeless, kicked out of his family by an abusive father. Drinking and beatings by his dad were endured on a regular basis.  For five years he lived on the streets until he was old enough to join the army (1956-1965).  Being of Navaho Indian decent, Vince the Prince was a fledgling warrior, and warriors always fight with perseverance and courage.

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However, the trauma of his early childhood experiences followed him into the military. He was always in trouble, and believed he would get shot, knifed, or killed in prison. Life was pretty hopeless. Anger often consumed him, a normal coping mechanism many children of abuse use to mask their pain and unpredictable daily circumstances. But, Vince the Prince was a survivor, often called a “smart ass”. Being tough kept him alive, and being enraged kept him “feeling”.

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How does a person ever survive such a life? According to Vince the Prince in 1970 he found faith in the spirit of the Lord, and this discovery saved him. Talking with him was pretty amazing as he could quote scriptures from the Bible better than most clergy. His personal commitment to the Lord handed him the hope that he lacked in his younger years and offered him a purpose in how he would live the rest of his life. In 1973 Vince was ordained as a street Evangelist.  His parishioners were those confined to the jails and prisons in Chicago. He worked with the street people offering kindness, optimism, and faith. Having this new mission made him think of others before himself. He was no longer in the survivor mode, but in a vocation of serving those who, like him in his early years, were crushed by life experiences far beyond the control of a young boy. In 1983 he even completed his GED after having only a fifth grade education.  Yep, pretty darn remarkable.

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I asked him at the end of one of our conversations “What has been your greatest lesson?”  His response, “No matter who or what you are, in God’s eyes you are precious.” And, ‘When all else fails turn to Jesus.”

Vince the Prince continues to work with young teens, many who are homeless like he was in his early years. Who better to understand their struggles, their fears, and their despair? Who better to provide a sense that no matter how dire your circumstances may seem there is always hope and that hope can lead to a miraculous future. Living life with purpose and a wicked sense of humor make Vince the Prince a very special human, indeed.

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(I recently spent a week with Vince at a remote fishing camp in Canada called Rushing Wind. Tony and I were invited to work with veterans who have experienced the effects of combat and are finding ways to heal from the wounds of war.)

 

 

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Listen peacefully to the wild call of the Loon.

 

 

 

 

by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D

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​It was a bright, warm, late June morning. Platte Valley Trout Unlimited and Project Healing Waters were collectivelyhosting their annual Wounded Warrior Event float trip. The two groups embarked on different sections of the river that Thursday. One group of veterans and their guides launched at Bennett Peak while a second group consisting of veterans from the Cheyenne VA Hospital departed from Treasure Island.

The beauty of the river, the challenge and fun trying to land a big trout, and observing the many creatures such as mink, deer, antelope and eagles made the morning special. Roughly an hour and a half into the float from Treasure Islandtragedy struck. A raft with two couples, who were floating on their own, hit a log jam broadside on a hazardous island point in the middle of the river.  As their big raft flipped in the treacherous water, all four individuals went into the swift, cold water…only three were thrown clear of the massive log jam.The fourth rafter did not survive the river’s current even though great effort was made to rescue him from the tremendous force of the water.

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Yet, throughout this tragedy there were many angels on the river. Angels that surrounded the rescuers, angels that surrounded the survivors to let them know they were not alone, angels that shuttled the traumatized rafters across the river to waiting medical personnel, angels that kept every veteran and their guides safe. Angels in the form of Army National Guard that found the body downstream and encompassed him in their arms letting the person’s spirit know that he was surrounded with love, respect, and comfort.

Yes, there were numerous angels on the river that morning. Angels, that in spite of the tragedy and sadness, provided many blessings. For you see, in the darkness there was still light, in moments of massive despair, hope arose, and in feelings of being alone there were wings surrounding all who needed strength and comfort.

 

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by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D

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            So many questions… most unanswered … fill my mind. Questions such as – What is suffering?  Why does it exist in our world? How do we lessen the feelings of hurt, pain, anger, and hopelessness? Very few responses are suitable for any one person, any one situation. Yet, it seems like nature is one of the few healers in our world of chaos and woundedness.

Last week we were privileged to be a part of a Healing Waters activity at the Blue Valley Ranch inKremmling,Colorado. Twenty four vets from FortCarson who are part of the FortCarson’s reintegration program and several who had been former members of the military took part in the program. For four days and nights Project Healing Waters Staff, along with community members and fishing guides volunteered their time and boats to wade fish theBlueRiverand float theColorado. Everyone strived to make the veteran’s activity a nurturing and healing experience.

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Long before the adventure began, participants began learning about the art and craft of fly fishing.  They learned the various life cycles of flies and many even took up fly tying which has proved to be a very important part of their life-long healing. Once the group arrived at the ranch they were fully equipped with expensive fly rods, fishing vests, hats, and other fly fishing necessities. Each veteran was accompanied by a personal guide to assist, coach, and make sure every need was addressed during the four days on the water. BlueValleyRanch is a good steward of the land and the staff works hard to ensure a high level of commitment to their warrior guests.

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But here is the fundamental mission of Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing… it is not to merely provide a few lovely days in beautiful surroundings. The primary mission of Healing Waters is to give each wounded warrior an introduction to an activity and potential life experience that can help heal their mind, body and spirit… It is simply not enough to go away for a few days and fish. Staying in touch with the guides, roommates, or others who have touched their hearts is essential. The guides and Healing Waters partners are around to take the participants on future trips. They are available to talk, to go for coffee or a meal, and to merely be an extended part of their new family.

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Yes, Healing Waters most definitely provides comfort and hope to any traumatized individual. However, it is people who heal people. It is communities that offer support and nurturing, and it is being with animals and beautiful surroundings in nature that help a wounded soul believe that even in a harsh world, there is still immense beauty waiting to be experienced.

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Quite simply it is the unpretentious comfort of nature and humankind that brings one back to believing in the humanity that is still present even if one can’t immediately see or feel its presence.

So, go to the river to heal, and be sure to include your faithful dog companion to complete the experience.

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by Tony & Janet Seahorn

            The human heart and mind are amazing in their capacity to experience intense sadness and abundant gratitude at the same time. That lump in the throat is still there as are the tears that cloud my eyes. Yet, the weight of the death of our wonderful Chase seems to be a bit lighter.

            Earlier this week, we visited Chase’s most beloved mountain meadow, high on the Snowy Range in southern Wyoming. It is a beautiful, alpine meadow filled with wild flowers and a running brook. This is the place we chose to spread his ashes and place a stone memorial on a wooded ridge overlooking the peaceful valley below. 

            We promised to make this journey after the early summer snow melt and before the wildflowers were in full bloom.

            His very essence now glides in the winds and rolls gently with the flowing water. White and yellow flowers line his final path. He is at peace, as are we. And younger brother Bailey still romps through the brightly colored grasses chasing after his cherished tennis ball – a reminder that joy is always present around and within our souls.

            As we paid our final respects it seemed as if Chase was giving us his final message:

I am now in my meadow; my ashes white as angels’ wings float with the Wind and flow through the mountain streams to places I never ran in life. 

Peace and beauty will always surround me with a green and white and purple blanket of sweet columbines.        

This is where I was finally meant to be.

Therefore, honor me not with tears of sadness, but with hearts of joyfulness.

                              Remember me with stories and laughter.                               

And most of all know that as much as you loved me I loved you even more.

 

Black Forest Chase

April 23, 1999 – January 4, 2013

by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D

 

It is a slow Sunday afternoon. One of those undemanding days when there is not much pressing to do; this leaves some time to spend on whatever catches my fancy. Tony has taken his four-legged children on a short fishing trip, allowing me some REAL personal time. Since there are several decent movies showing, I decided to go to a film called The Way.  It is the story about a father, Martin Sheen, who takes over a journey his dead son began. The task was walking a trail from France to a sacred place in Spain. Unfortunately, the son died in an accident his first day out. Of course, the deeper meaning of any such trek is a journey in finding oneself, whether that test is religious, career oriented, healing, or simply the trial to see if one can achieve such an arduous hike.

 

So I got to thinking while watching the movie, what is the Way of a Warrior? Is it a way of violence, death and suffering? Is it a way of courage and sacrifice? Is a warrior’s way a way of freedom? Perhaps a warrior’s true north is a way of Faith. Whatever the answer, one thing is certain; the way of a warrior is not easy and definitely not glamorous. More often than not, war makes it even more difficult for the warrior to find his or her way back to any kind of normality and trust of humanity. Finding the way back can be a lifetime journey for many past and present combatants.

 

One line in the film was pretty reflective, “Life is not about the career you choose but the life you’ve lived”. There can be no doubt that most warriors have lived a variety of lives in one short life time. They have lived the life of a warrior, a friend, a son, a father, a husband, a shattered soul, and a triumphant being. What then will be the rest of a life lived for a warrior? What will be his/her remaining Way?

 

It is my hope the remaining days of every warrior’s way will be softer, kinder and more peace filled. For those who have suffered years of sadness and remorse, may the new way be one of forgiveness and acceptance. During this Holiday Season and anticipation of a New Year, may every person find a special Way to give of themselves in some endeavor that makes a difference… adopt an animal from a shelter, smile and acknowledge that homeless person on the corner of your downtown street, or simply say a silent prayer for another soul in need of comfort.

 

During this season of reflection, find your own unique, individual Way to live with greater joy, less suffering, and fewer reminders of the demons that may have accompanied you home from combat. You and your family deserve a prosperous Way of living each and every one of your future days. Begin NOW!

by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D

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            There are few things in life that can take your mind off trouble more than a special day on a beautiful river. Last week the Platte Valley Trout Unlimited Chapter located in Saratoga, Wyoming had the opportunity to take a group of wounded veterans from the Cheyenne VA Medical Center on just such a trip. The excursion began with an amazing barbecue put on by members of the chapter and local volunteers. It seemed like almost everyone in the community wanted to contribute something from ice cream to napkins. Children from 4-H served food, helped clean up, and simply added their youthful energy to the evening.

            The next morning began early with breakfast which proved there is nothing wrong with a warrior’s appetite. Then off to the river, which is a logistical bussle of shuttling boats, equipment and people to one of the river’s launch site. Vice-President and project coordinator of the Trout Unlimited Chapter, Steve Hays, was a bundle of nerves as he wanted to make sure every detail of this event went perfectly. Again, all the shuttle drivers, helpers, boats, and guides donated their time and efforts to making the fishing trip an amazing experience.

            The guardian angels of fishing trips could not have arranged a more beautiful day for a float. The water was dazzling with light, birds seemed to have arranged their chorus of unique songs for entertainment, and even the fish were cooperative. Private angling lessons were given throughout the day which proved to be quite successful for most of the veterans. Two warriors demonstrated their angling abilities by catching ten or more fish. Since the North Platte River has been running at flood stage since mid-May, having the water and its inhabitants somewhat normal was a real gift.

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            Yet, the most significant result of the float trip was its therapeutic benefits to the wounded warriors. Most of the group had not known each other before the overnight trip. What they found from these precious, short twenty-four hours is recorded in their comments below:

  • I can’t believe people care that much about us.
  • I had no idea other veterans continue to struggle with PTSD; I thought I was just weak.
  • I really needed this… it’s been a long time since I felt I could relax and feel safe.
  • The whole experience has been a true blessing.
  • This is what makes healing happen.
  • That was one of the best days of my life.

              Formal therapy can and is very helpful to many military individuals healing from the trauma of combat. But it is only one ingredient of the recipe. Being with others who have suffered similar wounds, knowing that others care and appreciate their sacrifices and experiencing the beauty and serenity of nature offers one a sense of peace, safety, and the faith that perhaps some divine presence may truly be keeping watch over them.

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 Yep, Fishing Therapy… the new, ground-breaking, effective line of defense against the scars of war.

 

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