very other week, a bus with 10 to 15 veterans from the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center

pulls up to Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Libertyville, Ill. When the veterans arrive, there are handshakes and pats on the back all around as friends catch up and check in with each other. The gathered men and women come from four groups who get together for biweekly fly-fishing activities as part of the Project Healing Waters ministry at Holy Cross. The group consists of the veterans, Holy Cross

members, and representatives from local Trout Unlimited and Project Healing Waters chapters. The veterans, who all live at Lovell’s Community Life Center, are taught how to tie flies, cast and do some fly-fishing on their own. The program also offers many social benefits, such

as being involved in a community, as well as physical therapy benefits, especially dexterity as the veterans tie flies and cast. When the weather cooperates, they practice their skills at a nearby forest preserve. Robert Davis, a pastor of Holy Cross, said the

idea to start a Project Healing Waters chapter goes back about three years ago when the congregation was looking for new ministry opportunities. They learned that in their home of Lake County, more than 30,000 veterans are trying to resume a new normal after serving their country. He came across Project Healing Waters, a national organization that assists in emotional and physical rehabilitation for disabled veterans and active service personnel, and loved its intersection of physical therapy, social benefits and community building. “This program gives veterans a chance to

re-engage in community,” Davis said. “Volunteers from Holy Cross work with the veterans and start developing relationships. The whole experience, while providing many health benefits, feels less clinical. There’s something therapeutic about getting out into creation and defining a new normal. “It’s powerful to be in community and have others

care about you, and you caring about them in return.” Jeff Reinke, who works with the North Chicago

chapter of Project Healing Waters, said to his knowledge this is the group’s only chapter that is associated with a church. Project Healing Waters provides the high-level

organization and veterans’ integration, members from Trout Unlimited provide the fly-fishing expertise, and Holy Cross provides volunteers and hospitality. Randy Kuceyeski, a member of Holy Cross, has been

a volunteer since the project started in spring 2016. “It’s fun to get out with everyone and a great way to connect and give the veterans something to do,” he said. Typically the day begins with a hospitality group

from Holy Cross or a local Boy Scout troop serving lunch. Then, depending on the weather, the group gets


Veterans and volunteers tie flies together in preparation for their fly-fishing trips. Representatives from the local Trout Unlimited chapter provide expertise and walk everyone through steps for successful fly-tying.

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