“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.

As a veteran, former Border Patrol Agent and family man, Ricardo Montalvo knows life changing events. In telling us his story, there is one thing that stands out about him – he is committed to service.

After researching various branches of the military, Ricardo decided to join the Marine Corps. Although he was only 17, he had a passion to serve his country, and a desire to stand on his own.

“I always liked making my own path. My family are hard-working people who wanted me to have every opportunity, including going to a university,” says Ricardo. “I decided I did not want to be a dependent and joined the Marines.”

As a “Red Patcher,” Ricardo and his team were the second wave and responsible for preparing landing areas. He also took on additionally responsibilities for embarkation as well as becoming a fire team/squad leader. However, another life changing event pulled Ricardo away from the military.

“I joined the Marines because I admire this country and her people. However, I also needed to be there for my family, and with a baby girl on the way, I had to make a choice,” says Ricardo. “I chose to leave the military to be there for my family.”

Change of Duty

Ricardo spent a year working at the post office waiting for the Department of Homeland Security to respond to his request. It finally came.

“I spent six years as a law enforcement officer working as a Border Patrol Agent,” says Ricardo. “And I was an instructor at the academy in New Mexico.”

While Ricardo had dedicated his adult life to protecting and serving, life did not choose to return the favor. Due to personal challenges, he had to leave DHS.

“I decided to return home to Texas and attend school.”

Ricardo is close to completing his bachelor’s degree in international business and intends to move forward with his MBA.

However, it’s the “little things” that get in the way.

“I was becoming more detached from my family. It’s strange that you make the decision to adjust your life to be closer to your family, and the end result is that you actually become more distant,” says Ricardo. “It’s tough, and honestly created a situation that I was not prepared for.”

Ricardo found he spent less time with his family, choosing to forget by drinking more than he should, and not really processing his issues.

Something Had to Change – Again

“I’m a firm believer in helping our veterans, regardless of the military branch in which they served,” says Ricardo. “One thing I did that made a difference was speak to people at the Cameron County Veterans Service office and Texas Veterans Commission. It was there that I was introduced to the various programs that support our veterans.”

Ricardo says that every veteran is special to him, and he chose to volunteer at job fairs, resource events, and every other veteran community event he could find. It was there he found Heroes on the Water.

“They are really nice people, but I had not fished in a long time and had never been in a kayak, so I did not do anything for about six months,” says Ricardo. “However, I knew my mind was not right and I had to do something different.”

While Ricardo was focused on helping veterans, he was not focused on helping himself. He decided to try kayak fishing if for no other reason than he knew he was stuck and had to make a change.

“I was really distant and did not speak to anyone. When I’m in work mode, I’m all in. But at the event I just wanted to be left alone.”

Ricardo found everyone to be approachable and respectful, so he did not feel pressured. He even tried to kayak.

“I flipped the kayak – twice! And I lost a paddle. But the experience was so great,” says Ricardo. “I did not catch anything, but I did not care.”

Ricardo kept getting emails and decided to try another HOW event. Then he went to another, and another. Soon he found himself going as a regular.

“I started talking to people and trying to help. I even brought my uncle who is my mentor,” says Ricardo. “We had a tandem kayak that we flipped in three feet of water. It was funny, and my uncle loved the experience!”

Another change happened for Ricardo, one that was unexpected from a simple kayak fishing experience.

“I started bringing my family, and we started to bond again.”

Change for the Better

Ricardo says that Heroes on the Water became more like a family thing, combining his military and nuclear family.

“It took me out of my slump and changed my life,” says Ricardo. “My relationship with my family is better. It’s really hard to explain how much Heroes on the Water has helped me!”

Ricardo tells every veteran about HOW and the impact it has made on him and his family.

“It doesn’t matter if you fish, or kayak. It’s an amazing program that has changed my life!”

Ricardo has his own kayak now, and he and his son and wife regularly fish.

“My wife is a cosmetologist so not your typical outdoor person. However, she loves to fish.”

Ricardo is so grateful for HOW and the programs he has experienced.

“I just want all the contributors to know that their support is felt first-hand by the veteran community, and we are grateful for all they do,” says Ricardo. “They need to know that the resources they provide are being used well, and the veteran community receives positive benefits from it.”

Ricardo is a realist, but also a person of commitment.

“My life is not perfect, and we still have challenges. However, HOW has been very beneficial for me and my family,” says Ricardo. “It’s an amazing program!”

Our warriors give so much for us to have the freedoms we enjoy. Help us continue to make a positive impact in their lives by donating to Heroes on the Water today. Support a veteran and let them know how much we appreciate their service – both in the military and after they return home!

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