The well-known essayist and poet Henry David Thoreau said, “Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”
Albuquerque International Sunport Supervisory TSA Officer Adam Sena knows what he’s going after. Sena is dedicated to bonding with injured and disabled active military service personnel and veterans through fly fishing. He spends much of his off-duty time volunteering with the Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing program at Albuquerque’s Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center.
Project Healing Waters’ mission is to provide wounded and disabled military service members physical and emotional rehabilitation through fly fishing, and Sena, a nearly 18-year TSA veteran, assists with weekly classroom instruction and fishing outings. His involvement began after his father was hospitalized at the VA Medical Center. Sena visited the hospital every day for the final nine months of his dad’s life.
“The bond I had with my dad was one of the strongest I can think of,” said Sena. “My dad and my godfather were both Vietnam veterans who served in the Army 1st Infantry Black Lions Battalion. They met while serving in Vietnam, were wounded the same day in battle, and were friends ever since. [The three of us] would fly fish almost every weekend when I was growing up, and the memories I have of that time are priceless.”
Sena said his father became ill from his service-related disabilities. “I visited him in the hospital every day and would see other veterans not as fortunate to have someone visit all the time,” Sena recalled. “Some veterans had nobody visit them … ever. My dad volunteered as a caretaker for other disabled veterans and felt he could help more and wanted me to do the same. I decided they put their lives on the line to give us freedom, so if there was something I could do to help, as a thank you, I would.”
Sena is a favorite among the 30- to 80-year-old veterans who participate in Project Healing Waters. They often ask Sena to go fly fishing outside of the organized program activities, and he has a hard time turning them down.
“I have learned a lot from all those in the program and see how [Project Healing Waters] helps veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and other disabilities,” said Sena. “Fly fishing and tying flies has the ability to redirect your focus and keep your mind off things in your life that drain your energy and cause depression. Plus, there is nothing like catching a fish on a fly rod with a fly you made. Several veterans have told me they feel like a changed person. The program has also taught me to be more patient and use different ways of teaching others based on one’s skill level.”
Sena is a six-year program volunteer and has only missed meetings when on assignment for work. He even uses his annual leave and regular days off to help others.
“It makes me happy to be able to give back to those who have sacrificed so much for our country,” he said. “Work at times can be stressful, and being able to assist in this program and on trips helps me unwind and forget the stress.”
Sena also recently became involved with another non-profit group, GO Unlimited, which helps wheelchair-bound people perform outdoor activities such as fly fishing and hunting.
“Volunteering is something we all talk about but very few of us do,” he said. “There are many programs all over the country that can use the help. Not only does it feel good to help others, it helps you feel a sense of pride and worth knowing that something you did has changed someone’s life, and they will always remember the assistance you provided them.”