Words and Images from Ed Felker

Posts tagged “servicewomen

In the Presence of Greatness:
The 10th Annual PHW 2-Fly Tournament

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Project Healing Waters has been doing their important work for over ten years now, and the Tenth Annual 2-Fly Tournament was part celebration of those years, and part fundraiser to successfully begin the next decade of Healing Those Who Serve. This year, a participant from each of the previous 2-Fly Tournaments was included in the field, so there were many heartfelt reunions taking place around Rose River Farm all weekend. J.R. Salzman, pictured above, fished in the very first 2-Fly, and an iconic image of him stalking trout in the gazebo pool is still used by Project Healing Waters today. In addition to being a fantastic fly fisherman, he’s also a world champion log roller and ESPY Best Outdoor Sports Athlete award winner.

We were honored to have Mr. Tom Brokaw as the keynote speaker this year. When I first met him as he arrived it occurred to me that some years had passed since last I saw him on TV. But despite being weary from travel he was warm and gracious with everyone he met. And everyone wanted to meet him. Then when it came time for him to speak, the years I noticed on him outside the tent washed away. He spoke in a strong, familiar voice with brightness in his eyes. He was in his element. He spoke of service and volunteerism and sacrifice. Of coming together as a nation, of duty and patriotism. He weaved nostalgia with relevance, humor with power. He spoke to every man, woman and child in that room and made us each feel like the focal point of his speech and the hope for the future not only of this organization, but of this nation. His words were like the Uncle Sam poster whose finger magically pointed at You, no matter from which direction you approached. He is a consummate professional. He hit it out of the park, without ever once glancing at a single note, and delivered the single best speech I have ever heard in my life. Rob Snowhite, the Fly Fishing Consultant, captured the speech in his podcast, linked here.

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Here he is speaking at the dinner. In the bottom left corner of the photo is his long time friend and fishing buddy, the legendary Lefty Kreh. In front of Lefty is PHW’s founder, Ed Nicholson.

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Douglas Dear, owner of Rose River Farm and Chairman Emeritus of the Project Healing Waters board of trustees, speaks to over 300 attendees, the largest crowd ever gathered for this event.

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This photo of Keith Gilbert (standing), who fished in the 4th Annual 2-Fly, was taken the Friday before the event. He and Joel Thompson, his guide for the tournament, got to meet each other and discuss strategies at a warmup event nearby.

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Sunday morning’s weather, for the severalth year in a row, left a bit to be desired. But these are fly fishermen. We all hoped for better weather, but I never heard a single angler complain about a little rain.

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I spewed the words to the Pledge of Allegiance like a zombie thousands of times as a young kid in school, never even giving thought to the word “Allegiance” or what it meant. The Pledge of Allegiance here has meaning. The National Anthem has power. These are not formalities, things to check off the itinerary. The words therein carry the weight of the sacrifices of the men and women saluting that flag Sunday morning, and countless more who have gone before them. I feel at once honored and unworthy to be in the presence of men like Chris Frost, who lost both legs below the knee when his vehicle was struck by an IED. In addition to his Purple Heart, Chris has been awarded the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Force Combat Action Medal and numerous others. I first met Chris when he fished in the 5th Annual 2-Fly.

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Tom and Joanne have been a generous fixture at the 2-Fly for many years, and this year a new addition attended, appropriately attired for a troutcentric event.

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Mr. Brokaw was kind enough to come back Sunday to experience the tournament. Here he shares a laugh with PHW’s Director of Communications and social media guru Daniel Morgan, who worked tirelessly in the months leading up to this event to make sure everything went smoothly.

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In the first round of fishing, the weather deteriorated. But Judge Thomas Hogan doesn’t let a little rain bother him. Judge Hogan, an extremely nice man and a great fly fisherman, has been here for every 2-Fly Tournament.

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Pro Guide Jimmy Aliff nets a beautiful rainbow trout caught by Alvin Shell while the rain was still falling. Alvin fished previously in the 9th Annual 2-Fly.

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Rhonda Burleson, who fished in the 7th Annual tournament, gets a helping hand from Pro Guide Kiki Galvin.

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The weather did improve, albeit not enthusiastically at first. Mist and drizzle hung around for a while before deciding to depart for the afternoon and let some sun in.

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I love this portrait of Artist Michael Simon. All of you Virginians reading this blog who sport the specialty wildlife conservation license plates featuring bass or brook trout on your vehicle might not know that Michael Simon is the artist who created those.

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The fishing was great all day, and raincoats were shed for much of the afternoon. Here is Rhonda and Kiki again with a beautiful rainbow under sunny skies.

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World class fly fishing experts like Ed Jaworowski generously donate their time to come to the 2-Fly to give participants a chance to learn from the best.

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Lefty Kreh tunes up Keith Gilbert’s cast before the afternoon sessions.

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Rhonda tenderly releases a beautiful brook trout, rounding out her Rose River grand slam catching rainbow, brown and brook trout in just a few hours of fishing.

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“The honor is mine, to have the opportunity I’ve had to cover the big stories around the world, to try to get them right, to try to keep journalism on an even course, try to celebrate the goodness of this country and the greatness that is yet to come. Because I honestly believe that. And to be in the presence of Americans who every day wake up, and think about what they can do for their fellow citizens. So congratulations to all of you. And to the veterans who are here, in ways that we can never adequately express, we’re enthralled by sharing this country with you. Sharing this evening with you. And we will go home, and say to our friends and neighbors, ‘I was in the presence of greatness last night.'”

— Tom Brokaw, April 30, 2016, Rose River Farm

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Some Gave All

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The remains of over 400,000 servicemen and women, veterans and their families are laid to rest on the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery. This national treasure sits not five miles from my childhood home, yet I’ve probably visited less than a dozen times. I wanted to mark this Memorial Day in a special way, so I decided to brave the crowds and pay my respect to those who have served and sacrificed.

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I have no family buried here. I have no friends buried here. But I do know men and women whose names will one day — in the distant future, God willing — be engraved into white granite here. I am more proud of my friends who have served and serve still than I can possibly express. I am a better man for putting myself in their company.

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I happened across this stone that took my breath for a moment. The sheer number of graves here makes it too easy to lose sight of the individuals. Countless white markers spread across hundreds of acres, like flag-adorned whitecaps on a rolling, green sea. Heroes from a vague past, fallen in a strange land. I don’t know the story of TEC5 T.J. Carona, just what I can glean from the inscription. A soldier, a Tech Corporal in World War II, T.J. made it home safely to his family. He had a life beyond his service before the war, and after. And in the spring of 1955, he and his wife lost a daughter they had known only for a day. And the stone next to this one has a story too, and the next stone over from that. And when you start thinking of all the stories, the lives, the deaths, the weight of this place pushes down on you like water.

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But for all the weight pushing down, it is somehow an uplifting place as well. Honor, respect and meticulous ceremony are all around you. People young and old, rich and poor, from near and far gravitate here. Yes, the calendar told many of us this is a weekend we should honor those who rest here. But that’s why we mark these occasions with holidays, so we won’t forget. And there were thousands of people here today, not forgetting. And that’s enough to restore a little faith in humanity for even the most cynical among us. (Hint: I am the most cynical among us.)

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Here Rests in Honored Glory, An American Soldier, Known But to God.

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The Memorial Amphitheater was off limits when I was there, in preparation for ceremonies tomorrow. But I stole a few glimpses.

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“When we assumed the soldier we did not lay aside the citizen.” From then-General George Washington’s June 26, 1775, letter to the Provincial Congress. Above the stage, from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, “We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.”

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The landscape is dotted with monuments, memorials and trees honoring individuals or events in our history. I let myself get too wrapped up in trying to photograph this one to take the time to read and remember the plaque thereon.

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There are rows upon rows of these undated, unnamed markers. I wonder if anyone attended these funerals. After a hundred years of wind and rain have worn the letters smooth, it feels like the universe is trying so hard to forget these men. Rest in Peace, Unknown U.S. Soldier.

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I pondered the grave of Private Michael Burns for quite a while. In the time it took for this tree to take hold, flourish and adopt this rock as its own — and of course it is but a rock to a tree — I can only imagine his casket beneath, eternally embraced by a tangle of ancient oak roots. I don’t think it’s sad. I think instead it’s kind of comforting.

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Before I left Arlington there was one more stop I needed to make. The United States Marine Corps War Memorial depicts the iconic scene from Iwo Jima in 1945 and stands “In honor and in memory of the men of the United States Marine Corps who have given their lives to their country since November 10, 1775.”

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Some of the most incredible people I have ever met in my life are Marines. I will not single out my friends here but you know who you are. Oorah!

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Most people, I imagine, have seen photos of this memorial. In person, it is impressive. The figures are 32 feet high, and are shown raising a 60-foot bronze flagpole. The entire memorial is almost 80 feet tall.

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“Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But, the Marines don’t have that problem.” ― Ronald Reagan

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I am lucky to live within easy driving distance of places that commemorate those who have given their lives in service to this nation, defending and protecting all I hold dear. And I hope my friends near and far find your own way to take time this Memorial Day to think about all the lives lost. God bless them all, and give us the resolve to never, ever, forget.


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