FINDING PEACE ON QUIET WATERS
Falling snowflakes cling to Jesse Trumble’s beard as he scans the rippling current of the Boulder River. That same river winds around his feet, pulling with it his worries and troubles downstream. His hands whip the rod methodically back and forth, the line curling and unfurling mid-air in a kind of sporadic choreography.
Out here Trumble is just a man on the water. He is rested. He is quiet.
Peace, which has been so elusive in the past, has come easily. In this place, his thoughts revolve only around the dance-like motion of the rod.
Trumble doesn’t have to dwell on the things he’s seen that cannot be unseen; the fighting, the crowds, the sudden blast that picked him from the desert sands.
He watches the fly sink beneath the rolling surface. With any luck, it will find purchase in the mouth of a fleshy trout.
He waits, ever the patient fisherman, for the telltale tug on the line.
When it comes, his rod bows to the river and Trumble smiles, drawing the fish in.
His guide, George Anderson, scoops the rainbow trout from the water and hands it to Trumble. It’s not a particularly large fish, but its colorful scales are pleasing to the eye. Trumble handles the creature gently, bending down to return it to the water.
The fish glides out of his palm and vanishes quickly. After a brief venture in another world, the fish, much like Trumble himself, is home.
— The Marine —
Trumble served in the Marine Corps for 12 years as an infantry sergeant. He was stationed on multiple bases throughout the U.S., and deployed to Southwest Asia, Iraq and Afghanistan during his career.
When an enemy grenade exploded in front of him amid fighting in Zamindawar, Afghanistan, his life was forever changed.
Like many soldiers, his wounds are not visible to the naked eye.
They lie deeper.
Trumble suffers from a traumatic brain injury (TBI), which causes him to wake between 15 and 20 times over the course of a single night. Falling back asleep can take upwards of 15 minutes.
Suffice it to say, he doesn’t sleep much.
But on the weeklong fishing excursion with Warriors and Quiet Waters (WQW) something changed.
It could have been the hours spent on the river, the company of good people, the camaraderie with other vets — or perhaps a combination of it all.
Whatever it was, for the first time in a long time, Trumble slept. He woke just twice, two nights in a row.
Finally, he was able to relax.
“It’s been probably one of the lowest stress, most relaxing weeks I’ve had in I can’t even tell you how long,” Trumble said. “I think the only thing I’ve thought about all week when we’ve been fishing is what I’ve been doing with the rod. Everything else just kind of washed away.”
And that right there is what drives the staff and volunteers of WQW.
— The ORGANIZATION —
Warriors and Quiet Waters is a Bozeman-based non-profit that brings traumatically injured veterans like Trumble on fly-fishing trips to help them heal and move forward. Since its inception in 2007, WQW has hosted hundreds of veterans on weeklong fishing excursions, knows as FXs. During the FX, veterans are paired with a guide and companion to help them learn the art of fly-fishing.
They don’t come for a “kumbaya moment.” They come to learn a skill; one they can take with them when they go home. So on those bad days when they don’t want to talk or can’t find anyone to listen, they can go out to the river and fish.
Founder and Ret. Marine Col. Eric Hastings said the river healed him and he hopes it can do the same for others.
The organization serves veterans from post-9/11 conflicts who are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or a traumatic brain injury — or both. The number of these veterans has skyrocketed as result of recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that between 11 and 20 percent of veterans who served in Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom have PTSD — not counting the thousands of cases that go undiagnosed. And according to a study by the RAND Corporation, just over half of those who have been diagnosed actually sought treatment.
PTSD ranges in severity and can manifest differently in different individuals. Some may have angry outbursts, feel depressed and be easily startled, while others may withdraw from social situations and experience strong feelings of guilt or worry.
But many coping with these symptoms have found solace on quiet waters.
To read the full story, pick up the April 21 edition of the Pioneer or subscribe to our e-edition. Current subscribers are provided complimentary access to the e-edition with registration.
Story and photos by Mackenzie Reiss / Pioneer Staff Writer
CUTLINE: Marine Corps veteran Jesse Trumble fly-fishes alonside guide George Anderson, of Big Timber Fly Fishing, April 16 on the Boulder River.