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Wounded Warrior event offers disabled veterans peace

Auburn veteran says camaraderie best part of camp
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Although he’s not very good at fly fishing, an Auburn-born veteran said camaraderie, for him, is the most important part of a recent event celebrating veterans. Recently the Horseshoe Bar Fish and Game Preserve near Foresthill on the middle fork of the American River finished up its third annual Wounded Warrior event, bringing a group of disabled veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan together to relax and gain some experience in fly fishing and gold panning. Tom Bartos, president and founder of the preserve and the event, said he enjoys giving back to the community through events like this one. “I didn’t serve No. 1, and it’s a way for me to help these young men,” Bartos said. “I get my reward from being with the veterans, and having them have a good time and helping improve them.” Bartos said many of the veterans leave with a sense of wanting to give back or even get into the fly fishing industry. Each year several volunteers help Bartos put on the event, including representatives of the Foresthill Veterans of Foreign War and American Legion. The preserve is enclosed and the younger “wounded warrior” veterans spend four days camping on the grounds. Volunteers, many of them veterans, guide the warriors through fishing and gold panning lessons. Bartos said volunteer veterans represent all wars dating back to World War II. Shane Scicluna, 26, was born and raised in Auburn and graduated from Placer High School. This was his third time at the event. “It’s a great, great program that they run,” Scicluna said. “Just the camaraderie with being able to meet other disabled veterans, and being able to hang out with them and learn their stories, and getting to know other veterans, and helping them out with their recovery and meeting new friends (is nice).” Scicluna said right now the Veterans Administration considers him 50 percent disabled. He served in the Army for just under four years and went to Iraq as part of the 10th Mountain Division. Scicluna said he received a traumatic brain injury during combat. The injury causes him to have seizures. Scicluna recently finished up a year in the VA hospital in Martinez as part of the rehabilitation for his injury. At this year’s Wounded Warriors Camp, Scicluna was proud when others told him they noticed an improvement in him. “Even though it’s a real subtle thing, it’s nice to know others can see the recovery within me,” he said. Although veterans learn new skills, the experience is important to Scicluna for other reasons. “It’s a real laid back, carefree atmosphere,” he said. “It’s not really about the fishing or the gold panning, it’s more about going down there, taking a break from reality, getting away, relaxing, meeting new people.” Fremont resident Ken Brunskill attends the event every year. Brunskill is a Navy veteran and served from 1957-1960. Brunskill said at the camp he teaches veterans how to tie flies for fishing. He and fellow veteran Angel Gomez have developed three tools to allow veterans with use of only one hand to be able to fly fish. One of the tools is the One-hand Fly Tying Station. The device essentially acts as a second hand, holding material as the tying is done. Another one of the devices, the One-hand Line Handling Platform, holds the rod on a platform that is attached around the fisher’s waist. This allows fly fishers to have their usable hand free to strip the line. Brunskill said he thinks the event is a very healing one for the “wounded warriors.” “The people are outdoors, in nature,” he said. “All the stress of city life, noises and all those things are gone. You hear the sound of the wind through the trees, you hear the sound of the water rushing over the rocks. It’s just this calming, soothing atmosphere.” Bartos said the young veterans are always thankful to the volunteers at the camp. “They are incredibly appreciative and humble,” he said. “They say, ‘thank you’ for what we are doing. We are doing nothing compared to what these guys did.” Bartos said some of his favorite memories from the camp are sitting around the fire and listening to the veterans tell their stories. “Being able to sit around the campfire and listen to them talk, and share experiences, and give advice to each other and seeing them develop a relationship is pretty special.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com ------------------------------------------------------ Horseshoe Bar Fish and Game Preserve Wounded Warrior facts • The camp has been running annually for three years, usually during the first week of October • The event offers four days of fly fishing and gold panning without any distractions from the outside world • This year nine disabled veterans attended • About 20-25 volunteers, many of them veterans, also attended • Founder Tom Bartos is hoping to get a mentor program going so that after the camp ends, veterans’ local fly fishing clubs would adopt them and continue their fly fishing education. • Bartos hopes to bring counselors to next year’s event should any veterans want to talk with them • To donate or get more information, visit horseshoebarpreserve.com and click on Events • Contact Tom Bartos at (916) 205-6073 or e-mail hbp@surewest.net