MANILA, Daggett County — Four officers and their families, 22 people total, are spending the week at Flaming Gorge Reservoir to bond over the kinds of stories nobody would ever make up.
It’s a different kind of counseling for the law enforcement officers who have been injured in the line of duty and their families.
The American Heroes Project of Utah is the organization that planned this trip and put it on for the officers. Free of charge. 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.
Everyone's heard them before. 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 on Jan. 30, 2014, on the same day his colleague, Sgt. Cory Wride, was shot and killed by the same gunman.
Sherwood is now back to work full time, 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 on Sept. 28. A man Lovell was chasing punched him several times and starting hitting him with Lovell’s police baton. Another officer shot and killed the attacker.
Lovell is still trying to get back to work.
"Having gone through some trauma counseling, it's been easier to deal with,” Lovell said. “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.
"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.
The American Heroes Project of Utah normally takes military veterans fishing; however, the group wanted to do the same thing for law enforcement officers.
"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 group. “It's time that we start helping those in law enforcement ... and this is one way of doing it."
Conley retired from the Ogden Police Department in 2014.Comment on this story
“The law enforcement community is fighting the war here at home,” Conley said. “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.”
“Now you see some injuries out there that are comparable to the veterans that are there,” he added.
“It's a big deal. It helps a lot. They're amazing people,” Sherwood said.
The American Heroes Project is a nonprofit group that hopes to continue doing these trips for law enforcement officers.
Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc