“Not Yet Begun to Fight”: Outdoor Therapy For Veterans

Fly-fishing is a constantly repeating series of occasions for hope. Retired Marine Colonel Eric Hastings, regarding the content of Not Yet Begun to Fight

Hastings heads the group “Warriors and Quiet Waters,” which regularly brings wounded veterans on 6-day therapeutic fishing trips, also known as FX’s (fishing experiences).

Not Yet Begun to Fight is a new hour-long documentary directed by Shasta Grenier and Sabrina Lee about such an expedition. The film’s official description:

Retired Marine Colonel Eric Hastings remembers flight missions ‘high above the death and destruction’ in Vietnam. From the cockpit, he traced meandering ribbons that cut through the jungle. He recognized the shapes of the trout streams of home. Every night, he dreamed about fly-fishing. When he returned home to Montana in 1969, to a nation decades away from diagnosing PTSD, he went to the water. He tied a fly onto a line and cast. The river, he says, healed him.

In the space between war and a new battle, NOT YET BEGUN TO FIGHT unfolds: The Colonel reaches out to five men, a new generation returning from war. He brings them to the river and shares his secret: there are places where you can still be consumed by a simple act, find joy in a fight, and be redeemed as you gently release another creature, unharmed, into quiet waters.

One of the group, who’s nonverbal, has a tattoo that reads Not Yet Begun to Fight.

Below you can see the trailer:

Omer M. Mozaffar,  rogerebert.com, describes Hupp, the soldier in the film whose wounds, because not physical, aren’t readily apparent:

A reserved man in sunglasses and collared shirt looks like a forty-year-old employee of the ranch. But, he is only 28, [a] former bomb technician who lived on adrenaline. When his trainer apologizes for touching him, we anticipate some serious revelations about his deep wounds. He compares his six-year Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to a leech that slowly crept up on him until it started biting. Now he keeps his distance from people, trying not to recall the vile, disgusting violence he associates with all humanity. At the ranch, he accepts that there people in the world who do care for veterans like himself. Soon, he is able to accept their hugs.

SELECTED REVIEWS

Notably, all the reviews below attest to the commitment and empathy of leader Hastings.

Omer M. Mozaffar, rogerebert.com

Watching the soldiers in life beyond the group, we feel joy learning of some of their successes, along with the pains of their disappointments. As we watch Colonel Hastings, we cannot help but feel for him. His eyes well as he sympathizes with these young men. Occasionally, he sheds tears of gratitude watching them accomplish their small, but meaningful victories. With the grace of a cellist, he swings his own fishing pole back and forth. He soon catches a fish with his bare hands, caresses its body and tail, and lets it swim away.

Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter: 

They certainly couldn’t have found a more empathetic figure than Hastings, who at one point comments about the corrosive effects of combat on the soul. His tearful joy in watching the men master their casting techniques amidst the bucolic surroundings is ultimately infectious.

Nicolas Rapold, New York Times:

The Vietnam veteran who shepherds these soldiers tears up readily over their vulnerability, but the movie doesn’t claim that casting a reel is a cure-all. With their sensitive feature clocking in at an hour, the filmmakers make you wish only that they had developed their material further.

EXTRA INFO

For more about the clinical use of fishing, see my previous post on “Piscatorial Therapy.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.