For the fourth year, Dominion Transmission, Inc., sponsored a fishing outing for disabled veterans at Elk Springs Resort, just across the Randolph County line on the Elk River. Ten disabled veterans were provided three days of plush accommodations, gourmet dining and superb fly fishing.
Brian Sheppard, of Bridgeport, is Dominion Transmission’s Vice President of Pipeline Operations.
“It’s a great opportunity for Dominion to give back to the veterans who have given so much – not only to our country, but to our communities,” he said. “It’s our way of giving back to them. We’ve actually hosted this event, this is the fourth year here in West Virginia working with the Wounded Warriors.”
A Dominion employee with fly fishing experience is assigned as a guide for each disabled veteran. Sheppard doesn’t have to use coercion to get volunteers.
“That’s tough, on a workday, to ask someone to go fishing,” he said. “Everybody has a great time. Elk Springs Resort just does a phenomenal job here. We’re set up to handle anyone of any ability. They can fish in the ponds here or get down on the stream. We team them up with our employees, who volunteer their time. It’s one of those events where our employees have as much fun as the veterans.”
“We walk away from these events, we take away a lot of understanding of the veterans and what they sacrificed,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity for us to learn how fortunate each of us are.”
Dominion employee Fred Bell is a retired Army Sergeant Major.
“We came in last night and had a nice cookout and a little ‘meet and greet,’” he said. “I got to meet everybody and it’s been really good getting to know these guys and trying to give back for what they’ve done for our country.”
What did the veterans do for the country? Most of them sacrificed physical capabilities and some sacrificed their mental well-being in the course of their military service.
Bucky Tarring, of Louisa, Kentucky, severely injured both legs during an Army parachute jump. Tarring was able to scramble across rocks and fish from the bank of the Elk River, only with great difficulty and assistance from Bell, his Dominion guide,
The former paratrooper said Elk Springs staff made a special effort for the vets.
“There’s beautiful places up here,” he said. “I love it. If I could, I’d live up in here. The people that’s put us up here and everything have been, truthfully, unbelievable. Everyone has been fantastic. Anything they can do, they’ll do. They’ll go out of their way to make you happy.”
After enlisting in the Army, Tarring planned to make the Army a career. But his plan – and his legs – were shattered by something as arbitrary as shifting wind.
“I put seven years in, I was infantry, messed myself up on a jump,” he said. “I jumped out and, when I was getting ready to land, the wind shifted on me and I came in the wrong way. I hit and my knees shattered underneath me. That was the end of me, as far as being infantry. They tried to put me in other fields and that just wasn’t for me. I couldn’t be behind a desk.”
Dominion employee Jason Bryant, of Jane Lew, was enjoying his first year as a guide.
“These guys have sacrificed more than enough for us to be able to come here and enjoy these rivers, and for our country as a whole,” he said. “It’s really satisfying to be able to show them something that I enjoy doing and, hopefully, impart a little bit of knowledge. I hope it continues. I’m going to come down every chance I get.”
Army infantry veteran Ron Curry survived one of the most brutal battles of the Vietnam War – the Battle of Ia Drang. On November 17, 1965, Curry’s unit, the 2nd Battalion 7th Cavalry, and another battalion were ambushed by several hundred North Vietnamese Army regulars. A desperate 16-hour battle resulted in 155 Americans killed and 124 wounded.”
Curry is recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The combat vet said the Wounded Warrior fishing trips help him learn how to deal with people.
“I got PTSD and I isolated a lot,” he said. “This is a coping skill for me. I used to isolate so much I didn’t want to be in big crowds. With other veterans, they understand what I’ve been through and how I deal with it. It’s a coping skill. I go to the Vets Center every two weeks and we have therapy there. These trips help me get back into society a little bit.”
Dominion employee Rod Jennings, of Bridgeport, has been a guide for three years.
“It’s been a great experience,” he said. “I’ve been here for three years and, when I go back to work on Monday morning, I’ll wish for it to be the next year already. We meet a lot of good friends and veterans who have done so much for us. It’s something we all look forward to.”
Raymond Guineri, of Pritchard, was a member of SEAL Team Eight during the Vietnam War. He found out about the Wounded Warrior fishing program from Daron Dean, the proprietor of Elk Springs Resort.
“The Dean family allows us to come up here every year. They open up their hearts and their kitchen and they’re really blessed people,” he said. “Mr. Dean, his father served in Korea, as well as World War Two.”
Guineri moved to West Virginia from Pennsylvania several years ago.
“I love this state, that’s why I moved here,” he said. “I love the people. I love the attitude – the closeness of family, the priority of what God is. They appreciate country-minded folks and people who are life-smart, not necessarily book-smart.”
Larry Flynn is the president of Potomac Highlands Wounded Warrior program.
“The support from both sides is just great,” he said. “The Elk Springs Resort people are fantastic and what Dominion does for us – you just can’t describe – both financially and personnel involvement. The event just wouldn’t be possible without the superb support from Dominion and Elk Springs Resort going out of their way to make it work.”
For more information, see potomachighlandswoundedwarrior.com.