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No Excuses, Get Outdoors

No Excuses, Get Outdoors

You never know what will happen when you put yourself out there to try new things. In my experience, saying yes to trying fly fishing—something I never thought I would be into—has changed my life. And it keeps getting better.

After leaving the Army at the end of 2011, I fell into a sales job that had perks like travel and decent pay, but I still desired a deeper sense of purpose. I went from sales in deli meats to concrete, retail, and craft beer, but found that I burned out quickly from each of them. They were all jobs that have a purpose and fill a need, but as a former Infantry Paratrooper team leader who served in Afghanistan, the work just did not resonate with me.

I sank into depression over and over as the freshness wore from each new job. I would daydream about going back into the military, which was not an option after being medically retired. I would become irritable and push people away and sabotage relationships. It was a rough transition, but through it I realized I had a constant thing that helped me cope: Being outdoors.

Getting outside was my version of Superman’s fly toward the sun to regain strength. Going for a hike or even a walk through a park downtown would give me a little refresher, but when I needed a full recharge, I’d sneak off for a day to stand in a river to catch trout. Fly fishing was really the first thing that I would completely be in the moment doing.

Over time, I accumulated fly fishing buddies. As I did, I started growing a network of people who also were willing to get out and do something that was challenging but enjoyable. These guys were engineers, real estate investors, doctors, or VPs of this and that company. As I fished with them more frequently, I started getting better and better at the sport to the point that they were looking to me for guidance even though they were good fishermen themselves. They started recommending that their friends reach out to me to teach them to fish or take them fishing. The suggestion that I should be a fly fishing guide came up over and over until it got to the point that I started to consider it. I reached out to Upstate Warrior Solution to see if they could help me, and to my surprise, I got an offer for my current role as the UWS Outdoor Recreation Program Coordinator.

Now, I get the opportunity to guide fellow vets in not just fly fishing but a variety of outdoor opportunities. My goal is to help other veterans find their own outlet whether it’s golf, cycling, archery, surfing, rafting, or fly fishing. I get to enjoy a huge variety of activities with my veteran brothers and sisters while expanding my skills and growing my interests. I’m also guiding fly fishing outings and doing so with a purpose—donating a portion of what I receive to creating more fishing opportunities for our program.

If you are stuck as I was, know that Upstate Warrior Solution is here for you and that you never know what you might find by exploring new things. Even if you don’t feel stuck, you might just get a breath of fresh air that gives you what you need to do your best in everyday life. Moreover, you might just be the presence someone else needs to help them live their best life. It’s a win-win for everyone, so come get outdoors and find your own post military joy with Upstate Warrior Solution.

– Mike Libbrecht, U.S. Army 2004-2011 | UWS Outdoor Recreation Program Coordinator |