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Veteran starts non-profit to help military members heal through fly fishing

There's a new non-profit in Chattanooga helping active and disabled veterans heal emotionally and psychologically through the therapeutic effects of fly fishing. (Image: Ross Schweinforth)

There's a new non-profit in Chattanooga helping active and disabled veterans heal emotionally and psychologically through the therapeutic effects of fly fishing.

"Project Healing Waters" is an international program that encourages dozens of military members to feel safe transitioning into life as a citizen.

In this week's Pay It Forward, Jessica Harthorn surprises the former Marine who started the local chapter in our area.

Ross Schweinforth started "Project Healing Waters" in Chattanooga about four years ago.

He says fly fishing in a natural environment creates peaceful healing for vets who are used to experiencing the competitive pressure of combat.

The Tug is the Drug. That's what veteran volunteers with Project Healing Waters say about the thrill of fly fishing.

"It helps with the adjustment back into civilian life after some horrific experiences," said Terry McDowell.

McDowell served in the Army for 29 years. After his retirement he started looking for something to do to unwind.

He started volunteering for the local non-profit, helping its leader, Ross Schweinforth teach fellow vets fly tying, casting, rod building and of course fly fishing on Tennessee's gorgeous rivers and streams.

"We have veterans from the Cold War, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq," said McDowell.

McDowell says the psychological results have been remarkable.

"I've seen the effects first hand of some of the guys that come in. They are intense, they don't want to relax yet, you get them outside, they forget about their troubles. It's a day on the water," said McDowell.

So it was only fitting we surprise Ross near the water.

It was pouring rain at the Chickamauga Dam, but McDowell knew he would meet him there to fish no matter the weather.

Because of all your hard work, your effort on behalf of the veterans and Project Healing Waters, we want to Pay It Forward. So on behalf of Newschannel 9 and the McMahan Law Firm, thanks for a job well done. 1, 2, 3, 4, $500.

Ross showed us the equipment veterans use free of charge, no matter their physical abilities.

He says he'll show them a way to adapt on the river and in their new community.

Do you know someone who deserves $500 cash for helping others in the community? Nominate them here.

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