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“Remember why we are doing this – it’s for the warriors.”

Shawn Waggoner, the South Florida Heroes on the Water (HOW) chapter coordinator has first-hand experience with the ups and downs of building a chapter. The South Florida chapter is not yet a year old, and still they have managed to create some pretty amazing events while keeping the momentum going. So what is their secret?

“We remember why we are here, which is for the warriors. It’s not about titles or the job we do. It’s to help and potentially save lives by putting on a good event that has a relaxed, stress-free environment. “

Keeping Priorities Straight

Shawn and the rest of the team stay focused on service to the warriors so they can continue to enhance events and grow the chapter. But that is not always an easy task with a team of volunteers with very diverse personalities. One of the ways they coFirst & Foremost So FL Blog Post Feb 2015ntinue to be successful is to recognize the gifts each person brings to the table.

“We all want to serve the warriors, so we make a point to always work as a team. When we first started, we were in different roles. As time passed, we recognized gifts and shifted our leadership team to better utilize those gifts and talents. It takes a lot of openness and maturity to shuffle the deck like that and stay focused.“

By Nicolette Schleisman

When you think of fishing and kayaking, you probably do not think of therapy. But there is a group of veterans who call it triple therapy, which covers physical, occupational, and mental therapy, all by kayaking.

Stefani McCowan is an Iraq veteran. She came back from Iraq with more than just battle wounds.

“I went through a lot of combat trauma, a lot of personal issues and a lot of things that really kind of stopped me living my life,” said McCowan.10383917_1551386801755822_699227786209516200_n

She started going to Heroes on the Water four weeks ago. In just a month’s time, she has noticed a drastic change.

“It really helped me with my self esteem and feeling great about who I am,” said McCowan.

Heroes on the Water takes veterans out onto the water in kayaks and with fishing poles to relax.

It gives them the chance to decompress from the stresses of combat and rehabilitation.

“This starts to get them back in the community and get around vets and realize that they’re not alone and that they’re out there and there’s other guys and gals out there dealing with the same stuff that they are,” said Lyle Babcock, Kansas coordinator for Heroes on the Water.

It was May 2012 when I was trolling around in an online kayak fishing forum and I came across a posting asking for volunteers to take wounded warriors out kayak fishing.  They were looking for guides and gear as this was to be their first event ever.  Now I have never “guided” before, but I have been fishing for nearly 40 years and I’ve shown plenty of people how to fish.  I also have an appreciation for on-the-water safety and knowledge about how to handle various situations that may arise out there.  So I responded with my offer to help out.

I had no idea what to expect.  I’m an extremely competitive person.  I fish tournaments.  I play hockey.  I play poker, and I’m focused in my day job at moving up the corporate ladder.  So it was no surprise that I then started trash talking in the kayak fishing forum about how my vet was going to catch the most, and the biggest, fish.  To me, it was game on.  My vet was going to win.Jon Mueller story 2 July 2014

As the day got closer, I meticulously planned out our day.  The group was going to launch into Raritan Bay from Port Monmouth.  This is a fantastic fishery which I am very familiar with.  I know a channel that runs from shore to about 3 miles out.  The channel started about 3/4 of a mile east of the launch.  The plan would be to follow the channel out, looking for the fish and then work our way back.  It would be as much as a 7 and a half mile paddle in search of fluke.

Our New Jersey Chapter Coordinator recently shared the following with us. They have several veteran participants that have made the decision to purchase their own kayaks and gear. We are excited to see our program benefit the veterans we are serving so much that they want to make a personal investment so that the program continues to grow. Every time a participant makes the decision to purchase their own personal equipment, it opens up a spot for a new participant to get involved. 

 From Jim Reinknecht, New Jersey Chapter:

Lately our vet “regulars” are buying their own kayaks in droves, two last week and three this week alone.

One of the NJ chapters longest And biggest supporters has really stepped up their game for our vets recently. is our main kayak dealer. They’ve been our gateway to native kayaks since we started up. They literally provide us with almost everything we need at dealer invoice cost and sometimes even below. We get first crack at their year-end liquidations, rentals, you name it. They also have negotiated with manufacturers on our behalf (without us asking) to stretch our dollars the farthest. They host events for us and literally single handedly fundraised with tournaments the money for our entire fleet of kayaks. In the winter season they donate space at trade shows for us to do outreach, raise
awareness, and fundraise.

Independence Day is celebrated by Americans on July 4 and is often known as “the Fourth of July”. It is the anniversary of the publication of the declaration of independence from Great Britain in 1776.  July 4 is designated as a national holiday to commemorate the day the United States laid down its claim to be a free and independent nation.

A patriotic holiday, we enjoy celebrating the positive aspects of the United States by expressing and giving thanks for the freedom and liberties fought by generations of military service men and women.

As you celebrate this Independence Day…Please consider making a donation to help those who have served our country, thus allowing you to celebrate Your Freedom today!

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