A Colorado-based military support group says a day in the great outdoors can help soldiers cope with the stress of being wounded at war.
Wounded Warrior USA, a Monument-based charity, recently hosted a fishing trip for a group of Fort Carson soldiers. Among them, Brent Gitchel. If there's anyone who could use a relaxing day out on the lake, it's Gitchel. Life is hectic for him.
He has three daughters - ages one, two and four. And his wife has another baby on the way.
“I'm the only guy in the house, so stuff like this (fishing trip) doesn't come up very often,” Gitchel joked.
The kids, the job, and the daily routine aren't the only stress the Army Specialist from Fort Carson is dealing with. He's still recovering from an I.E.D. (improvised explosive device) blast late last year in Afghanistan that left him with 20 stitches in the face, complete loss of hearing in one ear, and an injured arm that's required four surgeries.
“I've pulled about 30 to 40 rocks out of my face, and I don't even know how many they got out of my arm, because it was mostly just gravel that blew up,” Gitchel told FOX31 Denver.
For guys like Brent, the physical pain isn’t even the worst of it.
When he came home from war, he faced the same marital struggles so many soldiers do. On top of that, his brother committed suicide. It's been a tough few months.
“It's getting better. The first few months was probably the worst,” Gitchel said.
Fishing trips like this were specifically designed for soldiers like Brent. Wounded Warrior USA organized this fishing trip on Lake Lehow, near Chatfield Reservoir in Littleton, to help.
“They're just out catching fish and having fun. We're just out forgetting about everything there's no rank, everyone's having fun and fishing. That's what it's all about,” said Dave Bryant, co-founder of Wounded Warrior USA.
“It doesn't matter if you have a brain injury, or if you're crippled, or you can't reel in. Fishing is a universal language that everyone understands,” Bryant added.
For soldiers like Brent, this day on the lake helps with the recovery by getting him back to a normal way of life after a very traumatic experience. He says life is finally moving in the right direction.
“About a month ago, everything finally feels like it's actually going forward in life instead of sitting still in a grey area,” Gitchel said.
“Just excited to see what the future holds,” he added.
Brent would like to return to duty, if the Army lets him. He hopes to one day become a physical or occupational therapist. And he recently got some more good news. We mentioned he has three daughters, and his wife is pregnant again. Turns out, they just found out they’re having a boy… something Brent has always wanted.
To learn more about Wounded Warrior USA, and their fishing trips for injured soldiers, click here: http://woundedwarriorusa.com/