Fishing Program Helps Injured Law Enforcement Officers to Relax, Heal
FLAMING GORGE RESERVOIR, Utah – You’ve probably heard them before. Anyone who has ever gone fishing has probably told them. They’re known as “fish stories,” which are known to might, or might not, be a little exaggerated.
“We reeled in a 36-pounder,” said Greg Sherwood while sitting in a pontoon boat at Flaming Gorge Reservoir Wednesday afternoon. “The fish is huge. I still have the slime, the badge of honor, on my shirt.”
The 10 people also on the boat at the time laughed as he told his story.
However, Sherwood shared another story no one laughed about.
“I was shot in the head,” he said while pointing at the side of his head and running his finger to the back of his head. “It went in through my right temple and penetrated my skull. Had two large bullet fragments.”
In his regular life, Sherwood is a deputy with Utah County Sheriff’s Office.
He was shot in the line of duty in 2014, on the same day his colleague, Sgt. Cory Wride, was shot and killed by the same criminal.
Sherwood is now back to work fulltime, but he calls living with the injuries his “new normal.”
“The brain injury was the hardest part of that injury, just recovering from that,” said Sherwood.
On this particular fishing trip, though, he realized he wasn’t alone.
The man sitting across from him was also injured in the line of duty.
“It probably took me about six months before I wasn’t thinking about it all the time,” said Greg Lovell.
Lovell is a Salt Lake City police officer who was attacked by a man this past September.
A man Lovell was chasing punched him several times and starting hitting him with Lovell’s police baton.
Another officer shot and killed him while he was attacking Lovell.
Lovell is still trying to get back to work.
“Having gone through some trauma counseling, it’s been easier to deal with,” said Lovell. “These kinds of things affect the family more than we realize as officers I think. After going through what we have, it’s been hard on the family.”
That’s what this fishing trip was all about, though. It’s a different kind of counseling for the law enforcement officers and their families.
Four officers and their families, 22 people total, are spending the week at Flaming Gorge and nearby Manila in Daggett County, to bond over the kinds of stories nobody would ever make up.
“Those circumstances are very personal, and so when you are with a crowd that’s like-minded, it’s easier to talk about,” said Lovell. “It sure has helped me.”
Officers admit talking about something that’s bothering them can be difficult.
“A lot of law enforcement is the type-A personality, they don’t want to show that weakness and they kind of hold it in,” said Scott Conley, who is the project manager for the American Heroes Project of Utah. “In any professional, you understand what the others are facing.”
The American Heroes Project of Utah is the non-profit organization that planned this trip and put it on for the officers, free of charge.
Normally, the group is known for taking military veterans fishing.
However, the group wanted to do the same thing for law enforcement officers.
“The law enforcement community is fighting the war here at home,” said Conley. “There are very traumatic situations. I can speak to that myself having been in law enforcement for 37 years, to where you see some pretty horrific things out there on the street.”
Conley retired from the Ogden Police Department in 2014.
“Now you see some injuries out there that are comparable to the veterans that are there,” he said.
The trip, which also included meals and campfires, was designed to help these officers tell their stories to heal, but just as important, to remember how to smile again.
“It’s a big deal. It helps a lot. They’re amazing people,” said Sherwood.
The American Heroes Project would like to continue doing these trips for law enforcement officers.
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