By Robert E. Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston
Today is Thanksgiving Day. A time for family gatherings. A time to reflect and be thankful for the grace and blessings we have received from the Lord.
We should observe the day in a jubilant, positive manner in order to prepare ourselves for the season of peace, Christmas, which will shortly follow.
This week is time to lock crazy Grandpa and his political rantings deep in a soundproof cellar. The elections are finally over. Television has returned to commercials ranging from the cars we drive to the clothes we wear to the medications that will prevent us from soiling our cars and clothing.
Finally, it is time to put aside your political views and opinions. Relegate them to the dustbin of history. Your family is your family and will remain so now and after future elections. Politics is not an issue that should cause division in anyone’s family.
Last week Auburn Mayor Jonathan LaBonté and I had the honor and pleasure of having lunch with Marine Col. Todd Desgrosseilliers (for the rest of the column he will be referred to as Col. D), which for me was a humbling experience. Col. D is an Auburn native, the son of Edward and Sheila Desgrosseilliers of Auburn.
Col. D first came to my attention about three years ago when he was the feature story in Leatherneck Magazine. Col. D is a Marine’s Marine, following in the footsteps of Marine legend General Lewis “Chesty” Puller. Similar to Puller, when the shooting started Col. D was with his men being exposed and facing the same danger faced by the lowliest ranking man on the battlefield.
His caring about the health of his men extended from the battlefield to stateside, where he visited many of his hospitalized men. He is a leader who you would follow into the Gates of Hell.
What was most impressive was he has never forgotten his humble beginnings or how he rose from a private to a colonel in the Corps. During his time in combat, he suffered several wounds and is currently scheduled to retire in a few weeks due to balance problems caused by injuries from IEDs (improvised explosive devices).
But true to the can-do spirit of military men, rather than withdraw from life, he has set a course that will help fellow veterans overcome their temporary setbacks. Col. D is now the new CEO of Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing.
The program was started at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2005. In 2006, an official name for the program was established and in 2007 the organization was incorporated in the State of Maryland. Over 205 operational programs are now located in all 50 states and Germany serving disabled veterans and disabled military personnel.
PHWFF is a volunteer-run organization governed by a board of trustees and elected officers, supported by six full-time employees and one part-time employee at their Maryland headquarters. They are associated with 61 international federations of fly-fishing clubs, 80 Trout Unlimited chapters and 49 independent clubs, all supplying volunteers that keep the program running.
Healing Waters is a program that teaches the art of tying flies and fly fishing to wounded vets with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and wounds affecting balance. This enables the veteran to focus and concentrate on the task at hand, pushing aside the horrors of war.
In 2015, more than 200,000 hours were donated by over 3,500 volunteers. This enabled 7,400 disabled vets and disabled military service personnel the ability to participate in the program. For more information on this program, go to www.projecthealingwaters.org.
Next week we will resume political discussions. But until then, have a Happy Thanksgiving and please don’t fight with the relatives.