In September of 2012 Rusty Lininger tried to commit suicide. An infantry veteran of two deployments to Iraq, a loving husband, and civilian employee of the U.S. Army. Working on the same post in which he was stationed, Rusty was constantly reminded of the past. Automatic gunfire from on post ranges, artillery fire on the training area, and low flying aircraft doing bombing runs. To top it all off, the countless memorials around post to comrades who never returned. He felt like he’d never left.
Long-time friend and decorated Army medic, SSG. Bickford found Rusty on his kitchen floor almost dead. “I don’t think he’s going to make it”, Bickford told paramedics over the phone while trying to revive him.” I’ve seen too many die in better condition.”
After several days in the hospital Rusty returned home. The flashbacks, anxiety, the feeling of hopelessness returned. The only way out seemed a very dark one. “I was on the floor crying, begging for a way out,” said Rusty later, “I looked up and saw my fly rod and vest in the corner, it called me.”
Since that day, Rusty has found purpose and inspiration in the act of fly-fishing. As a patient at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, Rusty tied flies most evenings. He found that this exercise was meditative and it helped with his ability to focus and concentrate. When he’s on the water, behind a vise, in a field practicing his cast, or just sharing his love for the sport to another, he’s no longer in the past. “I’m in the HERE and NOW when it comes to fly-fishing. I’m not remembering the past or dreading the future. I’m embracing the moment.”
Rusty’s work allowed him to express his gratitude by sharing this with active duty members all over Europe. He started fly-tying lessons for PTSD groups at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in 2014 and taking soldiers out to do conservation work on local streams. He also got to introduce the sport to soldiers while being a facilitator for Wounded Warrior Project’s Odyssey program.
Rusty wanted to take things further. He and his wife Elena came up with the idea of a fly-fishing “boot camp” and founded in April, 2016 a new non-profit in Roseburg, Oregon, Source One Serenity.
The idea of starting a non-profit was born when planning his move back to Oregon. His decision to move to Roseburg occurred when he met a WWII veteran, named Frank Moore, in Luxembourg in 2013, who inspired Rusty. Frank is a legend when it comes to fly-fishing for Steelhead. Another factor for choosing this destination is the fact that the North Umpqua River, in Roseburg, has a rich history for the sport. It is well-known that few places in the world have Oregon’s diversity and quality of angling. Roseburg is also close to Rusty’s home town, Myrtle Point.
Due to his passion for fly-fishing, the realization of its’ healing effects on deep, emotional scars of war scars in Veterans and his enthusiasm for teaching and sharing, Rusty set in motion a dream to help other Veterans through being a fly-fishing guide, a teacher or just a buddy. After researching the opportunities in this field, the decision was made together with his wife Elena, who has a Bachelors degree in Business Administration, to start a 501(c)(3) offering comprehensive wellness retreats for Veterans.