He served a tour with the Army National Guard in Iraq and later in Afghanistan. His Afghanistan tour was cut short in May 2010 when Levi was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.
After a long recovery, Levi found Rivers of Recovery (RoR) through his U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) Advocate. In 2013 he went on his first trip in Cotter, Arkansas.
An outdoor enthusiast from his youth, the trip was Levi’s first experience with fly fishing.
“It can be comical while learning, but really fun,” he said. “There’s lots of ribbing and trash talking on learning how to fly fish and who caught the biggest fish.”
He grew up bass, crappie and bream fishing, but Levi got hooked on fly fishing. “Now I’m going to the lake with fly rod,” he laughed.
So much so, that Levi went on another RoR again just a week later, this time with a friend.
Like many, Levi’s friend was hesitant. “It’s hard for vets to accept something that someone’s giving them,” he said. “You don’t go in the military to get stuff.”
But the experience extended far beyond the fish. “It’s a ‘never forget’ type of experience,” Levi explained.
Although he’s adventurous by nature, Levi confessed to having a few moments of uncertainty. “I don’t have a lot of feeling in my right arm and hand, and I’m right-handed,” he said. “I was afraid I was going to accidentally throw the rod in the water. I kept asking the guide, ‘How much does this rod cost?’”
But with the guide’s help, he was soon casting without a problem. “He was making fun of me, saying ‘you’re a bass fisherman aren’t you? I can tell because you pull up on the line when the fish grabs the hook.’”
“It’s empowering,” he continued. “You learn as you go and realize you can do it. I realized that I may be hurt, but I can still do this.”
Levi stayed in touch with RoR staff long after the trip ended. After returning to school and spending more time on other trips, he realized he could serve in a different way by helping RoR to spread the word through social media and marketing.
“I’m restless, and I joined the military to make a difference,” he said. “Then my service was over because of my injury. Working with RoR is another way to serve and help other people in the military. It’s something I can be proud of and will last.”