LET ‘ER FLY: the ballad of jack and hana
The Vietnam War ended in April 1975. For military veteran, Jack Simpson, while the physical war may be over, the emotional and mental scars of that period in American history remain.
WOUNDED WARRIOR CONNECTION
A seemingly gruff man but actually with a kind heart, Jack is well known to many. He is active in both the Wounded Warriors Canada and Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Canada communities. Currently residing in Williams Lake, B.C., Jack has always possessed a love of fly fishing. He runs his own fishing and fly tying business, Sandpiper Fly Fishing. The store supplies some of the best quality rods available.
Working at Blue Mountain Gunsmithing, red-haired Hana Eastmond was aware of Jack and his fishing business. Occasionally they would chat. At 26 years-old, Hana’s sense of the world around her was still small so Jack’s stories intrigued her. He didn’t spell out everything he had experienced, but she realized that fishing to Jack was more than just a hobby or sport. Still fighting the demons inside him after his military service years ago, it was a way to help him calm them. Together with his beloved wife, Grace, fishing for the couple was a shared experience. The sport allowed Jack to find some peace of mind. It enabled him to let go of everything.
Hana herself hadn’t really done any fly fishing; what fishing she’d enjoyed was mostly from being on boats. Jack’s descriptions of being out on the water, and his obvious passion for fishing, means she now fly fishes a little more. She has been helped along by Jack giving her a small fly rod to try.
Earlier this year Jack mentioned to Hana that he was planning a fly fishing event in the Caribou region to support Caribou Wounded Warriors. This event would bring in veterans from around the province and drum up support from many wonderful, community-spirited local businesses. He happened to mention that he wished he had a theme song for the event.
As it happens, Hana is an accomplished musician. From the age of 5 she had started singing and doing little events in her local area. Eventually she attended the University of Calgary where she studied classical and opera music. After graduation, Hana knew going the classical route might not be entirely for her. Such good educational grounding meant that she could turn her musical talent to almost anything. She found she had a taste for country music so she and her guitar performed at many individual events. Soon Hana decided to attend a week-long songwriting workshop in Wells, just outside of Barkerville, B.C. Writing comes mostly from her gut feelings so the workshop helped her to hone and finesse some of the songs whirling around in her heart and mind.
Like a confluence of rivers, Jack’s stories and Hana’s music were meant to join together: when he said he was looking for a theme song, Hana was inspired by all the stories he’d told which sparked the music within her. Hana began songwriting the same day, the words and music tumbling out about the healing powers of fishing and water.
After a week, Hana had a complete song but she had never been inside a recording studio. She consulted a trusted friend for feedback. It wasn’t long before she was in Vancouver, at the Saga recording studio. Here, along with Canadian C.M.A. fiddle player, Mike Sanyshyn, and producer, Mike Nowak, she recorded her lyrics and music. This session led to ‘Let ‘Er Fly’, the Caribou weekend’s theme song.
let ‘er fly song
Since then, the story behind ‘Let ‘Er Fly’ and the song itself have really taken off. Social media, local television channels and radio stations have featured the story and Hana.
Hana, though self-effacing and extremely modest about her talent, is anxious that only the cause is promoted. However she has been noticed by many influential people, including a record label producer. We should be hearing more about her in the future.
What makes this story remarkable and poignant is how, through shared passions for fishing and music, two different generations connected. Jack and Hana understood that hurt and healing are not mutually exclusive or restricted to gender, race or age: they are universal emotions and experiences. People are brought together through listening, sharing and communicating to promote comfort, understanding and peace.
For more information about the Caribou Wounded Warriors event, go to their Facebook page at Caribou Wounded Warriors. The Williams Lake community and the Mayor, Walt Cobb, have proclaimed 13-21 September, 2015 ‘Wounded Warriors of Canada’ week. Please show your support for all the local businesses and news media who have embraced the event. Thanks go to Fly BC and others who have donated materials and equipment.
To donate to the event or to Wounded Warriors Canada, please click here.
Veterans attending this weekend will almost certainly enjoy the outstanding scenery and hospitality of Williams Lake. The water, fly fishing equipment, lessons and experts will provide a fantastic fly fishing experience in the spirit of healing, camaraderie and friendship.