With the fall season comes the holiday season. For many, this time of year comes with added stress and challenges. It’s important to keep in mind that many of our nations heroes are already fighting their own battles before the stress and pressure of the holidays even arrive, making it an essential time of year to band together as a HOW Nation.
The holidays can be a lonely period, and this is a feeling no warrior should ever have to feel. After the sacrifices they have made for our country, there should always be someone by their side, reminding them they are never alone. We, HOW Nation, are that someone. We are not only comrades, we are a family unit; it is our responsibility to take care of one another.
Heroes on the Water folks love this time of year. The buds pop on the trees, blossoms emerge, and the fish really start biting. We emerge from our winter slumber ready to embrace our springtime events that allow us to serve more warriors through kayak fishing, camaraderie and community.
Spring also represents growth, and HOW is no exception. We are adding new chapters, volunteers and leadership every week. Which is why it is so exciting to have a seasoned HOW Nation leader now part of the chapter operations support team.
Meet Amber Helms – HOW Area Coordinator
Amber, along with her husband Rusty, and Casey Fugett started the NE Oklahoma chapter in November of 2012. In keeping with their passionate and focused style, they held their first event just a few short months later in February. Amber believes it is the passion that started and keeps the chapter going some four years later.
Heroes on the Water was recently subject to a study that could change the way you look at HOW and what we do. Don’t worry, this change of perspective is actually a good thing! You may be wondering why looking at Heroes on the Water differently could be beneficial. Well, we’ll tell you HOW!
Fishing for Knowledge
Troy University conducted an 18-month study focused on alternative forms of therapy for individuals who were faced with traumatic experiences. Heroes on the Water and some of the unexplained results of our simple concept were the primary inspiration behind this study. The nature of the study not only displays the therapeutic benefits of what HOW does, but the study provides empirical data that shows just how valuable our programs are. The presentation of Troy University’s findings attracted a much larger crowd than expected, proving that there’s something here.
Michael Bynum served 5 and half years as a Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps. In fact, he extended his service by six months to go to Afghanistan. He did so because he felt compelled to join his unit.
“I needed to go with my brothers because I felt an obligation to be there for them. As one of the senior guys, I needed to be there for my younger Marines. Thankfully, we all came back in one piece.”
Mike said choosing to serve was the best decision he made, but did not come from having a legacy of military service.
“I did not come from a military family to speak of. There were people like my grandfather who served in the Army Air Corp, but I did not know him well. I actually enlisted because my best friend did. I was in college and he came over and informed me he had joined the Marines. It took me all of 3 seconds to join up with my friend.”
Mike finished his semester of college and was off to boot camp.
Upon leaving active duty, Mike was recruited by the Wounded Warrior Battalion to serve as a squad leader. His detachment in San Diego was made up of warriors either physically or emotionally wounded, and his role was to motivate them so they could move forward into active, productive lives.
“I had to ensure that my detachment made their appointments, kept up their physical activity, and keep them motivated even when they were down in the dumps. It took time, but was very rewarding.”
“There was one Marine – a double amputee below the knee – who like many started off struggling. By the time I was leaving we were running three miles together, him on his prosthetics. He had amazing heart!”
The Legacy Begins
Mike will be getting married in November. In addition, he’s been approved through the first step of the rigorous process to attend the Texas Game Warden Academy, and in the mean time will graduate in August with his bachelor’s degree. He and his fiancée are big supporters of Heroes on the Water, because they see first-hand the power of therapeutic kayak fishing. They have been volunteers for approximately 18 months, and really enjoy seeing the veterans get out on the water.
While Mike does not have children today, he is supportive of his future children joining the military.
“I want them to have every option, so would recommend they join after college and go in as an officer. I think a college education is important. However, I would completely support their decision to join the military.”
The Key Word is Sacrifice
“The key word is sacrifice, a term that a lot of people take for granted. Particularly with my generation, every person who serves in the military volunteered to do so. They all have their own compelling reasons, rather than the government telling them they had to.”
“War is an ugly thing, and not something I will forget. Everyone who serves gives up so much for all of us at home. You may not agree with the reason for the war or the campaign, but rest assured those military members are doing it for their country as they were ordered to do.”
Mike also wants everyone to remember that families are a key part of a military member’s service.
“Families sacrifice as well, and sometimes they end up sacrificing a loved one. Whether that is through that person being killed in active duty or coming home and having to struggle with traumatic brain injury or post traumatic stress, it is important to remember that families play a big role.”
“When you are working your 8 to 5 job, and living out your happy life, remember that what created that atmosphere was the sacrifice of those who went to war to fight for our freedom and for a better purpose.”
A conference is simply not complete without great guest speakers, and our 2015 Paddle to Excellence Conference certainly had plenty! In addition to our own team members dedicating time and energy to best practices and training, we were honored to have the following guests join us and share their powerful stories:
Jacob Schick – “Jake” – U.S. Marine Corps veteran
Jake speaks candidly about his experience as a Marine, and the injuries he sustained in Iraq in 2004, and even more candidly about how important it is to support veterans as they return home. Jake understands first-hand the abrupt sadness one feels when your life is suddenly and irreversibly changed by serious injuries. He also knows the challenges of TBI and PTS. Yet he kept going, meeting and marrying his wife after he sustained all his injuries, starting a family, and generously giving his time to helping fellow warriors regain peace and passion for life.