“Bozeman is the Holy Grail of fly fishing.” So says Tom O’Connor of Warriors and Quiet Waters, a Montana-based charity that takes service-injured veterans on weeklong trips to learn the sport and spend time in nature. For many participants, the trip is a short vacation from an intensive and lengthy recovery at a military hospital. They are housed in a log cabin outside of town, fed by local “moms,” outfitted with all the gear they’ll need from the last remaining U.S. manufacturer of fishing clothing, taught and led by professional fishing guides, and joined in casting along blue-ribbon streams by local companions. As O’Connor explains, “We decided when we started that we were going to do this right.”
Since its inception in 2007, more than 470 servicemembers have gone through the program in groups of six. The progression remains the same with each cohort—initial apprehension followed by deep relaxation. So striking is the change from Day One to Day Six that O’Connor’s wife often “can tell by looking at the photos which day of the week it is.” Several attendees have enjoyed the program so much that they moved out to Bozeman to attend college at Montana State after completing their recovery.
The program has also added skiing and horseback programs. Remarkably, most of the donations that support each attendee (at a total cost of $4,300) come from small local donors—the million-dollar organization’s median donation is $110. It is broad support, not major wealth, that keeps Warriors and Quiet Waters in business. Speaking of one local supporter, O’Connor says, “I know I can count on a little old lady at the retirement home to send us $25 per month.”
- Warriors and Quiet Waters, warriorsandquietwaters.org/about