Organizations: The Goodwill Guides
During his 2006 tour of Iraq as a Marine, Jim Long sustained injuries to his neck, spine, leg and brain. Back home, he quickly got his feet wet in a pastime that helped his recovery.
“I had never fly-fished before,” he says, “but tying the flies helps with motor skills, and the other aspects of it are low-impact forms of exercise that feel good to my legs. What really helps, though, is being in nature. It keeps my mind active and off any bad thoughts.”
The winner of several tournaments, Long now ranks as one of Georgia’s top anglers, and he shares his expertise as one of the Goodwill Guides, a Dahlonega-based nonprofit dedicated to integrating wounded veterans, particularly those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury, into competitive angling and professional guide fishing.
“Our focus is primarily competitive bass and trout tournament techniques,” says founder and executive director Kenny Simmons. The group offers practice sessions at Lake Lanier and Frog Hollow, a stretch of the Chestatee River. “As our vets become more advanced, we provide them opportunities not only to compete but also to gain employment as professional guides.”
The group operates on the principle of peer support: veterans recruit and teach other veterans. “So they also get a sense of giving back,” Simmons says.
“It’s therapeutic because you can do it alone or with a group,” adds Jeremy Young, another Goodwill Guide and Army veteran. “If you want to talk about your experiences, you can, but you don’t have to.”
Goodwill Guides offer their services to the public for $60 per day. Veterans get a discount ($30), and wounded warriors can fish with them at no charge.