Healing on the Line

Author: Larry Mace

This article is adapted from Larry’s original article which was published in the February/March 2024 issue of Fly Fisherman magazine.

Unfortunately, I am the father of an Army hero who was killed in the battle of Kamdesh, on October 3, 2009, in Afghanistan.

Specialist Stephan Mace

When my son, Stephan Mace, was stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado, I went out to visit him for two weeks to share our love for the outdoors. We hiked in the snow to Upper Chicago Lake, which is just below Mt. Evans, seeking cutthroat trout.

Several months later, I was in Maine hiking along the Rapid River. On my hike, I walked upon this little shack, loaded with fly-fishing supplies from Project Healing Waters (PHW). On my way back to the lodge, I ran into Aldro French, the owner of the little shack, and we immediately became friends.

Several months later, that terrible knock came on my door at 5 a.m. I am not sure why, but after that, Aldro French was one of the first nonfamily members I contacted. Being ex-military, he understood, and then set me up for a PHW event to help with my healing. It was at that event on the Rose River where I met Lefty Kreh, and my younger son and I were gifted TFO fly rods and reels by Ed Nicholson.


Recovery through Fly Fishing

After losing my son, I felt the need to get away from the daily contact of friends in the town where Stephan grew up, so I moved to a little town in Vermont. The company I worked for gave me a cabin to live in, which serendipitously was two blocks from the Orvis store in Manchester! When I was younger, I attributed these types of things to coincidence, but as I age, I believe people come into your life for reasons we don’t understand. 

After our loss, TAPS contacted me for anything I may need. I received monthly letters of encouragement from them. One of them contained an invitation to an all-expenses-paid trip to Montana at the wonderful Parade Rest Ranch. My younger son and I took that trip, which was the best experience ever for both of us. The trip included guided fishing on the Madison River provided by Trout Unlimited for two days. As soon as I got home, I became a TAPS Peer Mentor to help other men deal with similar losses of a soldier and family member. Several other people, friends, and companies have been crucial to my own personal recovery and to the healing of my family. 

Larry Mace with a fish

Larry Mace on horseback

Larry Mace on a TAPS Montana Men's Retreat

The movie The Outpost is the story of the loss of my son and seven others in the Battle of Kamdesh. It was one of the bloodiest firefights in Afghanistan, in which two soldiers involved received the Medal of Honor. The story of that day has been retold in many ways and is available to everyone on Google. 

My latest healing came from Fly Fisherman magazine. After reading the June-July 2023 issue, I became very interested in seeing the movie Mending the Line, which recounts similar experiences of people dealing with loss and then recovery through fly fishing. Watching Mending the Line reminds me, and hopefully many others, of our common love and losses.

TAPS Men's Program

TAPS offers opportunities for men to come together at TAPS Seminars, TAPS Online Groups and at TAPS Retreats and Outdoors experiences. Visit TAPS Men's Program to learn more.

Larry Mace is the surviving father of SPC Stephan Mace, U.S. Army

Photos: Larry Mace, TAPS Archives