Hello again AWOL Family, Welcome Back
It was Providence, plain and simple. When I reached out to Gregg Flores of Where the River Runs asking about his awesome fly fishing videos a couple of years ago, fate would have us take things much further. I was at a time in my life that I knew was special, that an event had happened within me...I knew that I had found something important.
Fly fishing had become a catalyst within my life. Yes, fishing is awesome, I think we can all agree on that, and I think we all see the intrinsic peace that comes with an afternoon on a river or lake somewhere. This was much, much more for me however. I was connecting to something here, and connecting on a phenomenally deep level. What I had found was something great, and terribly difficult to be good at...something that demanded thousands of hours and years of practice to be decently good with. I had found an absolutely all-encompassing mission that I could throw my life behind and feel that I was part of something again. I had direction.
Fly fishing had become the affinity of my life. I loved it. I loved the travel, the excitement of planning a trip to some far off river, the things that go into the preparation of executing those fishing trips. I had drive and direction in my life with something that was healthy, provided endless possibilities for adventure, and connected me to the most peaceful, contented settings I could have possibly asked for in the world-lost somewhere in some National Forest or another. I was...happy with the adventure I was on. I had no idea how far it would take me in life.
I called out to an unsuspecting Gregg, and asked him about an Idea I wanted to put together. I wanted to share my story of combat, to fly fishing, and how that connection had fostered such a vast improvement within my life. I wanted to put something out there for other Veterans like me, who may have been looking for that spark in life-that thing that is bigger than you that you can feel a part of. I wanted to share with my Veteran kind, in case it could help them in their journey in some way. "Emerger" was the culmination of that dream.
Gregg quickly got to work setting us up on an incredible location, and before I knew what happened, he had thrown together the masterpiece of film art that is Emerger. He took my story, breathed life into it and helped me send it out into this world, a lighthouse beacon for anyone who may have been searching. It would become the very infant beginnings of our organization. An aspiration to recreate the event that happened within my life for our Veteran Brothers and Sisters. To this day, the United States is still showing devastating data that suggest that we are losing 22 of our Nation's Veterans to suicide...every day. This was, and is, unacceptable to me. I had by this point lost some close friends to the unseen battle, and was intimately familiar with what leads some into those dark places. I wanted to build a fire. I wanted to set a lot of fires. Fires that lit the way out of that madness for Veterans like me who knew that there was something left for them in this life to attach to with such vigor.
AWOL Angler is the culmination of this vision for hope. It began here. Fly Fishing would eventually become the passion and professional pursuit of my life as well, going on to become a professional fly fishing guide from Montana to New Mexico...a story for another day.