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.
Dawn Martin, recently appointed chapter coordinator for the Heroes on the Water chapter at Brooks Army Medical Center, has spent a lifetime in service. Starting at 18 years old, she left her friends and family behind to join the Navy – not an easy thing to do, particularly for a young person.
When Jennifer Nolan enlisted into the Navy at 17 years old, she intended to make that her lifelong career. However, two years into her service, she became pregnant, and realized that her life plans were going to change.
Today she still utilizes her Navy training as a photographer, but her life is much different.
“Even though my time in the military was not long, I found meaningful friendships. The military became my family, and even today I feel aligned with my fellow veterans,” said Jennifer. “When I was looking for a way to stay connected and found Heroes on the Water, I knew I had to get more involved.”
As many of our veterans and active-duty military, Jennifer has struggled with depression and anxiety. Volunteering with Heroes on the Water has created an outlet for her and her family while supporting her in healing herself.
As we celebrate another Independence Day, the subject of freedom is top of mind. 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. Recently, we caught up with Steve Graff, chapter coordinator for East Texas, and asked him what freedom means to him.
“That’s a tough question right now. I am not an outwardly political person, but it gets harder not to be in today’s climate. The whole freedom thing to me it means protect my borders, feed my hungry take care of my infrastructure and get out of my way.
“Freedom is a tricky concept because it’s different for everyone. For me it’s the right to believe what you want to believe without risk of punishment for those beliefs. Flag burners and protestors don’t bother me at all because I served so they could do that without ending up in Siberia. Does it offend me? Sure! But there’s nothing in our nation’s history or constitution that says you have the right NOT to be offended.
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.
Called by any of its names, post-traumatic stress disorder, post-traumatic stress syndrome or post-traumatic stress, this condition can impact a veteran for his or her life. Yes, life. And it is not a one-size-fits all situation.
This Memorial Day weekend, the leaders from Heroes on the Water will participate in Carry the Load event, which honors our nation’s heroes and the sacrifice they gave for our freedom.
If you are not familiar, Carry the Load is a non-profit dedicated to providing active, meaningful ways to honor and celebrate the sacrifices made by our nation’s heroes — military, law enforcement, firefighters and first responders. The Memorial Day march is an amazing tribute to those who have given so much. Check out the video to learn a little more.