Service & Sacrifice: Navy vet finds solace in a stream

7:38 PM, Aug 8, 2013   |    comments
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A fall of just a few feet from a Navy helicopter changed Jessica Callihan's life.

"The called me 'robo girl' because I had this terrible leg brace that went from the top of my hip all the way down to my ankle," recalled the now medically discharged Navy veteran.

The short fall sent her plunging into a deep depression. For a young woman in her twenties used to swimming, running, and rock climbing, she faced 10 surgeries and new limits on her physical life. Mentally that reality sent her in into self-imposed isolation that lasted almost four years.

"It really destroyed my life and I had to figure out what was important to me and figure out how I could do things," said Jessica.

Her husband Josh, also a military veteran, kept encouraging his young bride to get outside and find ways to rediscover her passion for the outdoors. He found help through a network of volunteers involved in a group called Project Healing Waters.

"It has been amazing. She has come out of her shell a lot and opened up more," said Josh.

The national charity targets wounded veterans and uses a network of local volunteers to teach veterans the art of fly tying and casting.

"Hopefully we get veterans meeting other veterans that have similar situations and similar issues they want to discuss and need people to talk about it," said Steve Thompson during a recent Project Healing Waters event on the Clinch River. The group hosts regular get togethers but has struggled to recruit veterans interested in taking part in fly tying and casting sessions.

"Project Healing Waters is one of the best organizations that I've seen as far as helping veterans get out there, " said Josh Callihan standing next to Jessica and eying the cool misty waters of the Clinch River.

He and Jessica now carve out as many mornings and afternoons as they can to share time together casting for trout.

"She can't do long periods of time on the water, but even if it is an hour, it is an hour outside of the house and a little bit of a break from the daily struggles of just getting out of bed sometimes," said husband Josh.

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