“It’s not the typical veteran’s event where people are going to share hugs and talk about their feelings,” Dan explained. “It’s about being with other vets and doing fun stuff.”
And that’s why Dan believes veterans appreciate the organization—and the experience.
“Combat vets speak a similar language,” Dan explained. “And we have the same sense of humor, even in dark times.”
Dan understands the mindset of RoR participants because he was one. In 2006, while serving in Afghanistan, his unit suffered a close-range attack. Dan’s injuries led to his medical retirement. In 2008, he went on one of the first RoR trips in Utah.
“I was going through some stuff,” he explained, succinctly.
A fisherman since his childhood in Connecticut, Dan saw the trip as an opportunity to heal some of his wounds that weren’t easy to see. “I went back to fly fishing to reconnect and calm myself… heal myself,” he said.
And it worked, he continued. “It changed my life.”
He wasn’t the only one. On that first trip, he met other vets with similar experiences—and similar transformations out on the river.
“Justin was a double amputee, and he just got his prosthetics,” Dan said, remembering some of the other participants on that first trip. “Watching him was very inspiring. Seeing how he could do it helped everyone. We shared an awesome few days out there.”
It’s not just the vets’ physical injuries, however. Post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression are common experiences among participants, as is the growing problem of suicide among military veterans.
Dan sees those issues as examples of why RoR trips are so valuable. “It’s important to get guys together for other reasons than funerals,” he said.
Since that first trip, Dan has been on many others. He started and still runs the RoR chapter in the northeastern United States—organizing trips for area veterans closer to home. Sharing the RoR experience has become a mission in itself for Dan.
“If I can get through to one guy, it’s worth it,” Dan said. “If you can get one guy out from his computer or his basement or out of a bottle or pills, it’s always worth it.”