As we celebrate 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. We caught up with Steve Graff, former 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.

My core belief is you don’t have the right to not be offended. You do have the right to change the channel, look away, talk to people you agree with and not people you disagree with. You have that right so exercise it. Freedom means you can offend me. I can completely disagree with everything you stand for and yet we can get along, work together or go our separate ways and no one is worse off. No one worries about being imprisoned for your beliefs. Believe what you want to believe, and as long as you are not breaking criminal laws you can act however you want. We put ourselves on the line to protect that.”

Steve is a veteran of the U.S. Army, 10th Mountain Division, who started as a light infantry mortar gunner then became a section sergeant.

“The two biggest mistakes I’ve made are joining and leaving the Army, which is easy to say years later,” said Steve.

Upon leaving the Army, Steve has enjoyed a career in sales in various forms, from life insurance to cars to promotional products. Currently he and his wife, Tami, run Green Monkey Promotions, and count Heroes on the Water as one of their clients.

Heroes Serving Heroes

As an avid fisherman and athlete, Steve found Heroes on the Water to be a natural fit.

“About four years ago a friend from my local gym, Katie Baker, approached me about helping her start a HOW chapter in our area,” said Steve. “I thought it looked like a great idea, so we went through the process of becoming a chapter and have been hosting successful kayak fishing experiences for vets ever since.”

Steve felt he and Katie had natural abilities that aligned to help make the Easter Texas Chapter a success.

“Katie is extremely organized and I love to meet new people,” said Steve. “She was the brains and I was the mouth. It worked great!”

Toward the end of 2016, Steve took over as chapter coordinator. Since Katie had ensured the chapter was established and running well, Steve felt he could step in. The chapter team takes approximately 25 veterans kayak fishing each month, as well as manage a successful fundraiser each year, the Easter 5K Ruck Race.

“My chapter leadership team was phenomenal and through their efforts and diligence we keep this chapter running,” said Steve. “Chaz, Michael, Jackie and Tami all pitch in to ensure we fulfill our mission.”

Steve and the team are really focused on giving back to the veteran community including the veteran’s families, because they all recognize the difficulties of returning home from combat.

“We want to reach as many veterans as possible, and ensure they are able to get out on the water to experience the healing aspects of our program,” said Steve. “It’s crucial we do everything we can to get those men and women in a space to be their best. It’s who they are, and coming home is tough. Warriors who fought for our freedom should now get to enjoy that freedom in the way they choose. It’s their right.”

Freedom is for everyone, and we know that it’s crucial to our future to ensure those freedoms are protected. By choosing to donate to Heroes on the Water, you are saying “thank you for my freedom.”

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