Matt Labash is an unlikely member of the Weekly Standard writing staff. You would probably be surprised at the number of serious smart asses who work, or have worked for this staid conservative publication, but even among them he stands out, or more properly apart. He may hold a conservative view or two, but he also has a libertarian streak that is impossible to miss. His book "Fly fishing with Darth Vader" showcases his wickedly wry, cynical and even sardonic wit as he takes you along on adventures with the most entertaining characters he can convince Bill Kristol to pay for stories about.
I had a chance to meet him and spend some time shooting the shit with him at Mary Katharine Ham's wedding recently. As usual he was standing on the periphery, actually when I first saw him he was standing at the rear of the hay bale seats hiding his beer behind his back as the ceremony was happening. After that we spent a goodly chunk of time skewering the usual, and even some unusual, suspects. That was quite entertaining and obviously fits my SOP, but he also showed a distinct interest in our military operations and how the folks in the fight actually feel about them. He also let me know he had a trip coming up to indulge his passion for fly fishing in the company of some wounded warriors. That story is now out and you can enjoy his writing as well as the obvious respect he shows to the folks he met. Enjoy Semper Fly.
And so last month, I came here to meet an outfit of hope merchants, led by a retired Marine colonel, Eric Hastings, cofounder and head of Warriors and Quiet Waters. Since 2007, Hastings and his merry band of 276 guides, drivers, cooks, board members, and volunteers—nobody is paid, including him—carry out a mission that is simply stated: “to employ the therapeutic and rehabilitative qualities of fly fishing for trout on Montana’s rivers and streams to help heal traumatically wounded U.S. servicemen and women.” Hastings elaborates: “I know what it’s like to be in combat, and I also know that semper fi—always faithful—is more than just a slick motto. You can’t just walk off into the sunset. This is an honor contract between Americans and the people who were sent to war in their name. It’s about serving your fellow warriors.”
And serve they do. Relying on mostly modest donations from individuals, seven times a year Warriors and Quiet Waters (WQW) fly out a group of a half dozen wounded soldiers, sailors, or Marines from their hospital wards and rehabilitation programs for a weeklong stay (sometimes they hold couples retreats, too, since wives often suffer as much after the injury). These are warriors fresh off the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq. They’ve been shot up, blown up, and every other up that man has designed to obliterate his enemy. Some arrive missing limbs and eyes and chunks of skull. All arrive missing other things they can’t quite articulate—the result of either Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI), or often both.