Kayak Fishing – A Family Affair
Families of veterans and first responders also serve, often in ways many of us do not understand. When it comes to providing a fun event that provides healing and harmony, kayak fishing with Heroes on the Water chapters fills the bill.
Blazing a Trail – Wellness Journeys Redefined
Heroes on the Water has two programs that align so that our veterans and active-duty military can consistently receive the powerful healing of kayak fishing. The effect is a long-term positive impact for our heroes and their families.
This Veteran Swears by the Three P’s of Outdoor Recreational Therapy
When Andrew Beaudoin retired from the Army, he found kayak fishing provided a way to overcome his post-traumatic stress symptoms. Now he helps other veterans find the 3 P’s of outdoor recreational therapy.
From Pond to Purpose – Kayak Fishing to Heal
Kayak fishing is recreational therapy that provides healing and community. For HOW's Galveston chapter coordinator John, it is using his childhood hobby to provide healing for veterans, first responders and their families.
Our Supporters Make Hope Possible
When Pure Fishing learned about HOW’s mission, they knew that our goals were in alignment with their values of inclusivity, diversity and generating joy and hope through fishing.
The Heart of HOW: Volunteers Who Change Lives
Volunteers are the heart of Heroes On The Water - without them, our organization cannot thrive. Read about two long-term volunteers and why they’re passionate about giving back through HOW.
From Colonel to COO – It’s Harder than It Looks
“Everyone thinks that because you retire as a Colonel and go to work for a Fortune 70 company and rise to COO of a major segment you had it all planned out. That’s simply not true.” - Neil Mullaney, Colonel (Ret) USAF
Stepping Between the Good and the Bad
Scott Null is a retired police officer who unknowingly spent years coping with Post Traumatic Stress. He and his wife Camille spoke to HOW about the ways that the outdoors, including kayak fishing, can provide healing to first responders.
A Heart for Service. A Head for Leadership.
Neil Mullaney, Col (Ret) USAF cannot stay retired. He has tried – twice. When Heroes on the Water (HOW) came calling, Neil found himself intrigued enough to come out of his second retirement to start a new leadership role.
Relaying the Message of Hope
Kayaking fishing and excursions are proven to improve overall wellness for veterans and first responders! HOW Ambassadors are spreading the word about the impact of the programs.
“One minute you are enjoying your life, and the next people are dying all around you and you are running for your life. It leaves a permanent mark.” ~Priscilla Horvath, Heroes on the Water Volunteer Program Coordinator
Honor and Sacrifice
Officer Keith Mackenzie is a father of three who has built a 28-year career as a police officer in Bethel, Connecticut. He is the Assistant Coordinator for HOW’s Western Connecticut Chapter and is an avid sportsman, fisherman and kayaker. He says he recognized the positive impact Heroes on the Water has made in his close friend Mike Libertini who is the Coordinator for the chapter.
My Heart Belongs to Veterans and First Responders
“The years I’ve participated have meant so much to me,” says Chaz. “I have met amazing people who have lost loved ones while defending our country. I’ve met kids who are growing up without a parent because of that dedication.”
Making Your Mark
Starting a HOW Chapter doesn’t just impact the participants who join in on events, it also positively impacts each volunteer and your entire community at large. When we offer healing to our veterans who have given so much, to our first responders who serve us daily, and to their families we are creating a healthier world for everyone.
Competition and Camaraderie – A Healing Combination
When Cody Roberson was approached about his interest in getting veterans outdoors, he had no idea about what the future would hold. Having already received notoriety as a semi-pro bass fisherman, Cody and his partners took their first group of veterans out to a private lake in Bourne, Texas, under the banner Heroes On the Water.
Before We Put it in the Rearview – Recent Successes
Serving Our Heroes on the Water Community – Hearing firsthand from our participants how kayak fishing and our program has helped make everything worthwhile.
Healing Through Volunteering – Supporting Your Wellness Journey
Volunteering is the life-blood of Heroes on the Water. Without them, our chapter-led program would not exist. We sat down with HOW’s Director of Volunteer Programs, Camille Null, to learn more.
Finding Purpose: How One Veteran Built a Fulfilling Career by Giving Back
Rick Gonzalez lived a life that wasn’t always easy. He says he was an angry kid who didn’t have many plans for his future until a military recruiter called. That call would ultimately change his trajectory in life…
I Was There – Reflections of a 9/11 Survivor
Each year when the anniversary of 9/11 occurs, the question “where were you” comes up. For Heroes on the Water board member, Samantha (Sam) Horwitz, she remembers exactly where she was – in Tower 1 when American Airlines Flight 11 hit. Sam is a former U.S. Secret Service Agent who was just going to work like any other day, not realizing that day would change her life forever.
Understanding Cumulative Post Traumatic Stress – One Police Officer’s Journey to Heal
“There's a difference between post-traumatic stress experienced by many veterans and that experienced by first responders. With law enforcement, it’s a culmination of many incidents, known as cumulative PTSD,” Libertini says.
Celebrating the comforts of the American Great Outdoors
Heroes on the Water helps heroes relax and reconnect through kayak fishing and the outdoors. Our mission aligns with our partner, Southern Comfort, in a natural way. Recently the team at Southern Comfort caught up with our own Jason Austin to discuss the benefit of the outdoors, and how our organizations have common interests. Read on to learn more…
My Daughter is my Hero
“I think many people take for granted that the freedom and liberties we have are because of those members of the military we have standing behind us. It’s something I’ve always been drawn to supporting. Now, my daughter and son-in-law both serve it has become even more important to me.” Baxter-Clark says.
Healing Starts Here
At Heroes on the Water, we are so blessed to have volunteers who believe in our mission and help us serve veterans, first responders and their families. María Castañeda and her husband Rudy are two of the amazing people who show up every day to serve our veterans.
Tales from the Front Lines
At times everyone struggles. At Heroes on the Water, we are honored to serve those who step up and ensure our freedom and safety. When one of those fine folks lets us know how we helped, that is certainly a fine day for us here at HOW. Please read Matt Bagley’s story. It is why we do what we do.
My Purple Heart is at Heaven’s Gate
On April 13, 2007, SFC Jason Austin, U.S. Army (Ret), was a passenger in a vehicle hit by two roadside bombs. “I clearly remember when the first one went off. I remember the flash, felt the heat and the immense pressure. I don’t remember the second bomb, nor the next year of my life.”
Freedom is for Everyone
Everyone has a different idea of freedom, which is exactly what the men and women fought for so bravely all these years – the freedom of choice. We caught up with Steve Graff, former chapter coordinator for East Texas, and asked him what freedom means to him.
Fatherhood, Family and Fishing
I reflect back on all those dads that got me to this point. They taught me the value of being a good man, one who appreciates simple things, like family and fishing. During the school year, my dad kept me plenty busy with Boy Scouts. My grandfather taught me to fish among many other things.
PTS Was Considered a Sign of Weakness
“Today the military cannot ignore 22 suicides a day. We come home, but never leave the war zone.” ~Eli Thomas. When Eli Thomas was in training for the National Guard in 2010, he quickly recognized the stigma around post-traumatic stress.
We Roll with the Punches
“Military life throws some doozies at you and you have to stay strong to power through it.” We have all been talking a lot about the “new normal” and life with COVID-19. As a military spouse, I’ve had to endure a lot of changes. The pandemic is just another change of course, and we adapt and overcome. We lean on each other and keep moving forward.
In Honor: Sheriff’s Deputy Kenneth Maltby – Eastland County
Ken H. Maltby was killed in the line of duty on September 7, 2016, while serving the County of Eastland, Texas as a Deputy for the Sheriff’s Department. His legacy lives on, and he touched many lives, including that of Lisa Ramsey, Fort Worth Police Officer and regular Heroes on the Water participant.
What’s on Your Gratitude List?
Thanksgiving is often the time we pause and focus on what we have to be grateful for, but where does that leave us the rest of the year? Amber Helms, Executive Director for Heroes on the Water, knows the power of being thankful every day.
Answering the Call
“The tough losses are those we endured after we returned. The brothers and sisters we lost to suicide.” Aric Quitugua, chapter coordinator for Heroes on the Water Tampa Bay, saw some of the worst as an Army Medic. He understands the struggles veterans have when they return.
Operation Double Dip – Get Up and Live!
“It’s incredible to me that it’s gotten as big as it has and is as well run and effective as it is,” says Jim. “Something so simple is so powerful. It blows me away.” From those early days where everything was grass roots, growing to a national organization is still surreal for Jim.
Operation “Double Dip” – From Hardship to Hope
“He got out of that kayak and started talking about what a great time he had, how many fish he caught. It took about 20 to 30 seconds before we all realized he was no longer stuttering,” says Dolan. “The stutter returned, but it boosted him in a major way. He told us he had been at BAMC for two years without any progress. He said, ‘Now I have hope.’”
Operation “Double Dip” – The Man behind the Myth
When Heroes on the Water started in 2007... there were no focus groups, or high-end consultants. Just a team of people coming together with one man who felt compelled to lead the way – Heroes on the Water founder, the late Jim Dolan.
The Born Outdoorsman
“I was always big into the outdoors. I was 15 when my boss invited me duck hunting,” says Dave. “I fell in love with it and now hunting is a big part of my life.” Dave spends his free time - he has served on non-profit boards since 1997, so combining his love of all things outdoors and passion for giving back made Heroes on the Water a natural choice.
Post-Deployment Dad – A Soldier’s Story
Marrying his high school sweetheart, Sylvia, and looking at his future, Danny Hernandez did not plan on a military career. Four children and two military careers later, with a son carrying on the military tradition, Hernandez has a different perspective.
Carrying a Legacy
Amber’s father, grandfather and father-in-law all proudly served in the U.S. Military. She ultimately married a man who spent 20 years in the military and has many family members who serve in law enforcement and as first responders.
For Someone Who Says They Have Proudly Served…
Loss of purpose – a common thread among veterans who had to leave their active military service before they were ready. Sergeant First Class Marco Garcia spent 18 years in active duty, deployed to many of the most active war zones in our recent history. “Don’t let your story end in a negative way, through self-medication or worse.”
When Giving Back Becomes Your Code – REDLEE / SCS Sets the Standard
At first glance, REDLEE / SCS, Inc. is a successful facilities management company. Dig a little deeper and you find a rich family history. What is not obvious is the depth of the family focus, encompassing every employee within the organization, or the strong focus on giving back to the community. REDLEE / SCS has high standards when it comes to community service.
The Art of Transition
It’s not a secret that veterans often struggle with reintegrating into civilian life. Add to that a move to a new state, starting a life with your new spouse, and a whole host of other changes, and you could have a recipe for disaster. Not for Robin and Monte. What is their secret?
After the Video – The Truth About Reunifying Family
The images of heroes returning from combat is powerful. Videos all over the internet show surprise returns. There is the brother who surprises his younger sibling while reading his Who is My Hero paper (spoiler alert – it’s the brother)...
The Family Impact of Post-Traumatic Stress
According to Molly S. Castello, Ph.D. for Psychology Today, trauma can affect families for generations. “What is overwhelming and unnamable is passed on to those we are closest to,” she said. “Our loved ones carry what we cannot. And we do the same.”
It’s So Good to Be Part of Life Again
When the symptoms of post-traumatic stress hit, Hilary Williams went from being a successful Marine officer to a homebound individual, fearful of the world. Five unconscious concussions sidelined her with traumatic brain injury and took a toll. While her concussions were not all combat related, the outcome was still life altering.
The Healing Benefits of Kayaking
Whether focusing on military, first responders or anyone with challenges, there are no shortages of eco-therapy programs. All sorts of fishing, hiking, or horseback riding groups are available; and yet at Heroes on the Water we choose to focus on fishing from kayaks. Why?
He Came Back Alive – Here’s How He Came Back to Life
“My brother-in-law, who was also in the military, decided to take me fishing. I wasn’t all that into it, having not been since I was a kid, but he talked me into going,” says Ray. “For some reason, it helped calm me down.”
Looking Forward to Serving More
Heroes on the Water is proud to serve our nation's heroes, an honor we have enjoyed for the last 10 years. As we celebrate our 10th year, it's time to also think about ways we can continue to be of service to those who give so much to us.
It’s More Than Fishing – How “Ecotherapy” Works
Ecotherapy – a nice term for what many may believe is just a fancy way of saying do cool stuff outside. Nothing could be further from the truth. Howard Clinebell, who wrote the book on ecotherapy in 1996, stated the term refers to healing and growth nurtured by healthy interaction with the earth.
What If There Was Nothing to be Thankful For?
As we look toward celebrating Thanksgiving in the U.S., it’s nice to see folks focused on being grateful. Whether it’s a social media post, or just simply reaching out to a loved one, many expound on the multitude of things they are thankful for in their lives.
He Served – Now It’s Our Turn
“It’s a life changing event. After two visits I was able to shift my mindset toward shining a light on what was important.” - Ricardo Montalvo discussing Heroes on the Water.
She Served – Now It’s Your Turn
What kind of person chooses to volunteer large amounts of time to a non-profit after enduring a sexual assault, major injury and chronic body pain, survives major lung surgery after battling meningitis and epilepsy, and even today struggles some days to get out of bed? That would be a person of fortitude and bravery, like Dawn.
The Ripple Effect: Communities are Healthier
In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, it’s difficult for many to think about communities being healthy. There are so many displaced, so much devastation – and yet, there is so much hope, kindness and support that it helps us to feel the strength of our community.
As a Civilian, Here’s What You Might Misunderstand about Combat PTSD
You know the adage, walk a mile in my shoes. Well, the truth is that for most civilians, combat Post Traumatic Stress is a mystery. We really do not understand much beyond what we see in movies or read in articles, unless we are living with a veteran.
A Woman, A Veteran, A Mother
Mother’s Day conjures up many emotions. If you are a young mother, it’s a new experience filled with wonder and joy, and sometimes a lot of messes. For moms with older children, it’s a time to recognize how wonderful your children are, and be proud of all you have accomplished.
Peace – It Comes in That Moment
We’ve all experienced it – that single moment when you feel at one with the world. When you are present in a moment of inner peace that encompasses your entire being. You feel whole. For many of our veterans, these moments are too few and far between. Think about it – they have been on high alert for months, fighting for our freedom, fighting side by side with their brothers and sisters in arms, fighting for their lives. Then, whether through injury, disability or the end of their time, it suddenly stops. It’s as if someone has slammed on the brakes.
Paying a Major Debt
“You can never repay what many of our veterans and their families have given up, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try. We want to do something in a small way for people who have done so much for all of us. It’s a small payment on a large debt.” ~ Luther Cifers, Founder and President, YakAttack, LLC
I Heart Fishing
If you love to fish, then you completely understand the passion so many have for this sport. If you don’t, or never have, fished, well, there are so many reasons to love it. For example, you get the calming influence of being on or near the water, and there is the competitive nature with just trying to catch that big fish.
Life is Like a Tackle Box
Organizing your tackle box is essential for fishing success. You need to be confident you have the right fishing tools at your fingertips. Organizing your daily life is also essential, as thinking ahead and focusing on your goal will also ensure success. So, let’s take a cue from your tackle box and get organized!
On the Water: Serving Those Who Served
There are a million ways you can choose to help our nation’s heroes, but is there a best way? Probably not, but there are definitely better, more effective ways to serve them. As with many things in life, the saying goes “keep it simple.” Well, we’ve taken that advice and done just that; our program puts ‘Heroes on the Water,’ plain and simple.
We are Their Family Now
Rudy and María Castañeda 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.