Directly after high school, I joined the Army as an infantry soldier. In 2004 I was deployed to Iraq for 13 months and served as an automatic rifleman. I became a squad leader upon returning to Ft. Hood, TX in 2005. In 2006, I was riding my motorcycle to guard duty when a teenager ran a stop sign and hit me. I broke three bones in my back, broke my ankle, shattered my femur, and lost my right arm just above the elbow. I was sent to Walter Reed Army Medical Center once I was stable enough to fly. During my 10 month stay at the hospital I met Ed Nicholson (PHWFF founder) and John Bass. They introduced me to Project Healing Waters (PHWFF).
PHWFF is an organization that teaches disabled veterans how to cast, fly fish, and tie flies as a form of mental and physical therapy. I wanted nothing to do with fly fishing. They were persistent, and got me out on the water soon after. I fell in love with fly fishing after catching my first trout on a fly rod. This opened the door and gave me the confidence to try other things I thought I could no longer do like hunting, tying my shoes, and more recently, changing diapers!
I medically retired from the Army as a Staff Sergeant. Upon returning home to Roanoke, VA, I assisted in starting a PHWFF chapter based at the Salem, VA hospital. We offer casting, fishing, and fly tying there. On our first fly tying event, I decided to try to tie my first fly so not to look hypocritical when trying to get the other vets to participate. I instantly fell in love. I started my own company tying flies and started selling them on the internet. Later, I added guiding services to my fly fishing company. Orvis picked up a fly that I originated in 2011 and an additional original in 2013.
This December, I will graduate from Old Dominion University with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering Technology. It has been 7 years of going part time while working a full time job at Aecom and my fly fishing business Dead Drift Flies. My always supportive wife, Lisa, and I have a 3 year old daughter, Emma Jo, and a 7 month old son, Wyatt. God is good!
Thank you Josh for your services and sacrifices. You are truly an inspiration. Acts 20:35 says ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ and you are certainly blessed through all that you have given.
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