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UCHS JROTC donates to Healing Waters

Erwin Record Photo by Richard Rourk • Project Healing Waters U.S. Army Capt. Jera Anderson, retired, accepted the $500 gift from the UCHS JROTC.

By Richard Rourk

Unicoi County High School JROTC cadets recently raised funds for Healing Waters of Johnson City by participating in a challenging walk-a-thon.

The UCHS JROTC raised $500 through sponsorships as they completed the Bataan Death March. 

“Every year in honor of those who were forced to march across the Bataan Peninsula, our cadets marched 14 miles in three days,” said UCHS JROTC Instructor Col. Lou Kaelin. “We walk from the school and do half the march on one day and then we finish the walk the following day. This year each cadet got sponsors for each mile and the amounts varied. We had some individuals and local businesses that committed to large sponsorships. We really have some very generous sponsors and business sponsors in our area.”

The Bataan Death March occurred when the Japanese forced 76,000 captured Allied soldiers (Filipinos and Americans) to march about 80 miles across the Bataan Peninsula. The march took place in April of 1942 during World War II. Thousands perished in what became known as the Bataan Death March.

Each year the cadets choose to donate their funds to a veteran centric organization. 

“This year the cadets chose Project Healing Waters,” Kaelin said.

Project Healing Waters Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Inc. (PHWFF) began serving wounded military service members in 2005 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The service members were returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since then, PHWFF has expanded nationwide, establishing its successful program in Department of Defense hospitals, Warrior Transition Units and Veterans Affairs Medical Centers and clinics.

Project Healing Waters brings a high-quality, full-spectrum fly fishing program to an ever-expanding number of disabled active military service personnel across the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System, in military hospitals and in the Warrior Transition Command. Resources are focused wherever the need is greatest.

Through its successful application of the sport of fly fishing as a rehabilitation tool, PHWFF has become recognized as an innovative leader and model in the field of therapeutic outdoor recreation for the disabled. 

Project Healing Waters U.S. Army Capt. Jera Anderson, retired, accepted the $500 gift from the UCHS JROTC on Wednesday, Aug. 25. 

“This money is not just a donation to a program,” Anderson said. “This money saves lives. With this $500, we can purchase equipment that would normally cost thousands of dollars through manufacturers that give us discounts. We are able to outfit veterans with fly fishing gear and tools to get them out on the river.”

Anderson speaks from personal experience.

“The fly fishing sport has healing powers,” he said. “This program saved my life.”

Anderson said he was appreciative of the younger generation of cadets working to help older veterans. 

“I want everyone to know that us old soldiers stand on the shoulders of giants,” Anderson said. “These are my giants.”

Project Healing Waters serves more than 8,000 soldiers and offers more than 200 programs through the United States.

For more information or to donate to Project Healing Waters, please visit Projecthealingwaters.org.