Rudy and Maria Castaneda knew they wanted to help veterans, so they began their journey to create and develop a Heroes on the Water chapter in the Rio Grande Valley. They held their first event in May, and since that time have taken over 100 warriors and families out on the water. They have become an integral part of the community, speaking to various organizations and colleges. More importantly, they are dedicated to supporting the large community of veterans and active-duty military service folks in the area. Why?
“As a Veteran I go to the VA and I have seen other Veterans who are suffering from combat, so I knew there were a lot of people we could serve,” said Rudy. “I told the wife there are so many people in the area who would love to go kayak fishing, but cannot afford their own kayak, so let’s start a Heroes on the Water chapter.”
After serving his country, Jeremiah came back a changed man. His memories of recovering downed U.S. military aircraft were all too vivid. In one such recovery, two helicopters had collided in flight. His friends, fellow warriors, had been on board. The experiences caused chronic post-traumatic stress—which, paired with a traumatic brain injury—worsened after his return.
Calming the Storm
Jeremiah needed an outlet to calm the storm. Heroes on the Water provided that. He could surround himself with nature’s best and connect with fellow heroes. “When I’m with another veteran, whenever they’ve been there and they’ve felt it, when they’ve walked that mile in my shoes, they can relate,” he said. “Everybody is accepted. And it gives you a sense of peace that you’re not alone.”
Great things started to emerge. He formed friendships, found peace, reconnected with his family and felt empowered again. “[HOW has] kind of been my bridge to getting back into society,” said Jeremiah. During this transition, he found a new passion in leather crafting, and enjoyed it so much that he started providing leather crafting and laser engraving workshops. Like kayaking, it’s low stress and immensely fulfilling. Now, he teaches and inspires other veterans to learn the craft.
Bringing Families Together
Today, HOW has become a way of life for Jeremiah and his family. “My wife loves it when I go fishing, because I come back a little happier, a little more unwound,” said the hero. “It brings families together, so that they can feel the joy that we do out of this program, too.”
To support warriors like Jeremiah, donate today, September 17, for North Texas Giving Day!