Fly fishing saved Rusty Lininger’s life. Lininger, a post-9/11 combat veteran, was a civilian employee of the U.S. Army working on the same post he had been stationed on in Germany. Rusty was constantly reminded of the past; every day there was automatic gunfire from on-post ranges, artillery fire in the training area, and low-flying aircraft doing bombing runs. To top it all off, there were countless memorials around post to comrades who never returned. Finally, Rusty felt he needed to stop the pain he couldn’t deal with any longer and he attempted suicide.
Long-time friend and decorated Army medic SSG Bickford found Rusty on his kitchen floor. “I don’t think he’s going to make it,” Bickford told paramedics over the phone while trying to revive him. “I’ve seen too many die in better condition.”
After several days in the hospital, Rusty returned home. The flashbacks, anxiety, and the feeling of hopelessness returned. The only way out seemed a very dark one. “I was on the floor crying, begging for a way out,” said Rusty later. “I looked up and saw my fly rod and vest in the corner; it called me.”
Since that day, Rusty has found purpose and inspiration in fly fishing. As a patient at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, Rusty tied flies most evenings. He found that this exercise was meditative and it helped with his ability to focus and concentrate. When he’s on the water, behind a vise, in a field practicing his cast, or just sharing his love for the sport with someone else, he’s no longer in the past. “I’m in the HERE and NOW when it comes to fly-fishing. I’m not remembering the past or dreading the future. I’m embracing the moment.”
Believing that a gift is only a gift when it is shared, he started several fly-fishing and tying programs in Germany to share his experience. Around this time, Rusty also volunteered with the Wounded Warrior Project and was instrumental in bringing a chapter of another veterans’ fly fishing charity to Europe.
The idea of starting a non-profit built around fly fishing was born when Rusty was planning his move back to his home state of Oregon. Rusty met a WWII veteran named Frank Moore in Luxembourg in 2013. Frank is a legend when it comes to fly-fishing for Steelhead, and he inspired Rusty to move to Roseburg. Few places in the world have Oregon’s diversity and quality of angling, and the North Umpqua River in Roseburg has a rich history with the sport. In addition, Roseburg is close to Rusty’s home town, Myrtle Point.
Rusty founded Source One Serenity with a mission of empowering veterans to reclaim their sense of purpose through fly-fishing and conservation work. The services provided by Source One Serenity have grown from serving 15 veterans in 2016 to more than 200 veterans in the first half of 2017. Source One Serenity conducted five retreats on the North Umpqua River and Elliott State Forest. Veterans learned the basics of fly fishing and conducted conservation work. They reported that in experiencing nature they regained mental peace and tranquility, and a healthy distraction from the torment of traumatic experiences. Since February 2017, Source One Serenity has facilitated fly-tying and casting lessons for the patients at the Roseburg VA Medical Center. Layne R., a U.S. Army Infantry veteran, said, “Great program. Really enjoy the challenge and relaxing process. As a novice I have to say, fly-tying ROCKS!”
Source One Serenity is selling Grunt Style t-shirts and flies to raise money for conducting a week-long fly fishing charter school for disabled veterans who are unable to participate in fly fishing camping retreats. The fly fishing school will be a complete immersion into all aspects of fly fishing for beginners.
The curriculum will include fly fishing, casting, fly-tying lessons and hands-on activities in fish biology and stream stewardship. One of the participants, a post 9/11 combat veteran, has volunteered to prepare meals for the whole group. Students will be housed in a cabin at Lemolo Lake Resort, Oregon.
If you are a veteran who is interested in being part of this community, contact us on our website or on Facebook now. Source One Serenity is run by veterans and we are committed to helping our fellow vets find a positive path to peace.
One Cast, One Fly At A Time!
Guest blogger Elena Lininger is Co-founder, General Manager and Board Secretary of Source One Serenity. Prior to this new endeavor, she worked in sales and customer service. Elena received her Bachelor of BA in International Business at Østfold University College in Norway and a German Diploma in Environmental Business Administration at the Trier University of Applied Sciences.
While being a part of the largest US military community in Germany with her husband, she saw the harsh impact of combat, not only on him, but on many other soldiers and their families. The effects of wars were already familiar to her because her grandparents fought the Nazi occupation of Belarus, where she comes from. These experiences made her aware of the need to treat the health issues of veterans.
This post was written by teresamankin