On December 31, 2016, my time as CEO will come to an end, but it will be the beginning of my role as simply a warrior who is destined to continue serving his brothers and sisters.

The choice to make a change in my journey with Heroes on the Water was not made lightly, and definitely did not come easy. That being said, HOW is and always will be my family. This is merely a title change, and nothing more.

HOW Nation has been my second family since its inception in 2007. I have made deep friendships and become awestruck by the bravery of the people I have come into contact with along the way. My career was challenging and rewarding all at the same time. I did my best and I was well rewarded in kindness and in friendship. It was the ultimate privilege to be part of a team, which achieved success that we can all be so proud of.

The Early Years

That very first outing we realized we were onto something. You know what they say – it’s often the simplest ideas that have the most power. Once we realized how powerful these experiences could be for our warriors, we knew we had to keep going and we had to share it with as many heroes as possible. It was then that it became our duty to serve those who had served us so valiantly.

Those early days, while fun, were not easy. It was definitely a team effort to keep going, and I could not have done it without the help of my brothers and sisters. We couldn’t imagine how big we could go; we just knew we had to keep going. It was the people who ensured that Heroes on the Water went from just a fledgling idea to a full organization helping thousands of warriors across our nation.

From our first kayak fishing outing to where we are now, we’ve accomplished more than we thought possible; but there is much more to be done, and many more heroes to be served.

The Power to Do More

I continue to be overwhelmed by the number of folks who would come up to me and thank me. “For what?” I thought. At this point I was just doing what needed to be done in order to help our heroes heal and regain the better life they deserve.

One of the earliest impactful memories I have was from December 2007, when a soldier treated for Traumatic Brain Injury at Brooks Army Medical Center attended a HOW event. He stuttered, was slow to process information, and at first did not want to get in the kayak. Once in the kayak, however, he went on to paddle and fish for four hours by himself. When we were helping him out, we asked how his morning went. For 30 seconds he was excitedly talking about how great kayaking was, that he caught 5 fish, and really enjoyed the time on the water. Then, he … and we… realized he was speaking normally. He said that was the first time in two years he was able to speak without a stutter. Although he quickly regressed to his former speech, he said “Now I know I can do it. Now I have hope.” It was at that moment we realized that HOW does significantly more than just kayak fishing.

The Growth of a Nation

1980220_10201581975093760_1868978100_oWe tried all types of things while growing. Some were really great, like developing structure for the chapters to follow, and some not so great, like promising to quickly deliver management software and finding out after that it was going to take a year.

It’s frustrating when you cannot make everything happen at that moment because we wanted to move as quickly as possible to support our warriors. However, sometimes you have to slow down to do it right, rather than fast. I’m not patient when it comes to that, and I get excited about helping our chapters serve.

Regardless of the trials, the challenges, and the ups and downs, we had to keep going because our military community deserves so much for their sacrifice. We may not be perfect, but we never quit.

This year alone, we’ve grown from 54 chapters to 81, which only further expands our ability to help more heroes. In addition, we’ve served 6,545 veterans along with 2,276 of their family members up until the end of November. Seeing the numbers doesn’t do justice to the impact we make for our warriors when they set out on the water. I ask you, my family, to continue serving to keep the hope for our heroes alive.

I am so proud of the Heroes on the Water team – from the warriors to the family members to the volunteers and chapter leadership, to my leadership team. You have all contributed to saving lives. Thank you for sharing in this cause with me and thank you for the support and friendship of over 9 years.

  1. Gene Gribble December 15, 2016 at 2:56 pm - Reply

    Jim you are the hero to so many of us. I have been an active member of society; I am a better man, father, and husband based on what HOW has provided me. I too am in a little bit of a transition. I will be moving to Florida and will have a new starting point in my life, and I promise I will do my best to serve and bring along more Veterans to the overarching benefits of what HOW provides. Jim best wishes in your role in HOW Nation. Thank you for starting this great program and I know we all are looking forward to the good things in the future.

    Very Respectfully,
    Gene A. Gribble
    MSgt/USAF Ret

  2. Pete Lauter December 15, 2016 at 3:04 pm - Reply


    Was an honor serving HOW for a brief time. All I can say to you Jim is thank you and job well done. God bless you and Sally.

    Pete Lauter

  3. Donald Dehm December 15, 2016 at 3:06 pm - Reply

    Well said Jim. It was a pleasure meeting you, being a part of HOW, and to see how much your passion did for so many. Your actions and passion will live on for many years to come. Enjoy your retirement and rest assured that many more Warriros will recieve the best rewards from the core values and goals that you set out in the beginning. I hope to see you again sometime my friend, you and Sally are always a pleasure to visit with. I will be looking for you out on the water and hope to one day share some tight lines with you again.


  4. Orlando December 15, 2016 at 3:17 pm - Reply

    Thank you for ypu have done and what you accomplished. Since joining HOW dallas chapter has made a huge impact on my life and my family’s as well. Wishing you Fair Winds and Following Seas.

  5. Marlene Guy December 15, 2016 at 4:11 pm - Reply

    Thank you Jim for all you have done.
    I can’t even put into words what HOW has done for me. I don’t know where I would be (or even IF I would be) if not for HOW.

  6. Howie Thompson December 15, 2016 at 5:14 pm - Reply

    Jim- Congratulations on all you and Sally have done with bringing Heroes on The Water into being and then nurturing it into a World Class organization dedicated to fulfilling very deep needs on the part of our Veterans. While I know it is with the Heroes that you want the focus, please know that you are also a Hero to me. I am proud to be your friend, classmate! Howie

  7. Phill Pittman December 15, 2016 at 5:21 pm - Reply

    That is going to be a really big set of shoes for someone to try to fill. I know you won’t be far. A lot of warriors and their families will be in your debt for all that you have accomplished.

  8. Scott Griffith December 15, 2016 at 5:29 pm - Reply

    Jim, all the best to you as you go to your next phase! On behalf of all of us at Maurice Sporting Goods, thank you for everything you have done! It has been a pleasure working with you, and a true honor to be associated with HOW and to help HOW honor and assist our nation’s warriors!

  9. Gary A. Engberg December 16, 2016 at 12:17 am - Reply

    Jim, Posting your releases and telling people about HOW is a tiny thing in the whole realm of your wonderful group. You have been the driving force getting HOW going and continuing to see that the right course is continued. The sheer numbers of participants alone is unbelievable considering where HOW started from. I personally would like to thank you and giving me the opportunity to make people know that there is something out there for them after their magnificent service. I realize that you are not one looking for laurels and publicity, but you’ve been the one of the leaders and voice for so many veterans. I, personally would like to thank you for ALL that you’ve done for veterans and this country of ours.
    Thank you, Jim Dolan, for being one who cares about the true heroes who have served and protected America! Thanks again Jim! Sincerely, Gary A. Engberg . P.S. Can you give me a future contact email or phone number so that I can keep in touch and drop you a email now and then God Bless you and all that you’ve done for America’s true heroes and warriors!

  10. Gary A. Engberg December 16, 2016 at 12:22 am - Reply

    Jim, Is the address here your own? I may want to contact you and keep in touch. Gary

  11. Camille December 16, 2016 at 8:28 am - Reply

    You and Sally have accomplished so much and have been an inspiration to many. I’m proud to call you both friends and look forward to many more years of friendship. Your vision and determination to help our warriors has been the driving force behind the success of HOW. Your leadership has led to the continued growth of this valuable program. You have laid the groundwork and it’s time for the next man up. I’m sure the next person inline will lead by your example and HOW will continue to grow and serve our warriors as they deserve. Clear skies and tight lines my friend;)

  12. Bill Sims December 23, 2016 at 11:13 am - Reply

    It has been my good fortune to see the evolution of HOW from a unique perspective… since before it was a thing.

    Sitting in the chair next to Jim at the Texas Kayak Fishing School was a barrel of monkeys. Neither of us knew what we were doing. Jim was learning to tame the wild plastic boat, and occasionally got bucked off. The instructor assigned him the nickname Double Dip.

    The first HOW fundraiser was at a little paddling store in Dallas. About 20 people showed up, enough to get some new PFD’s. In the following years HOW has evolved into a first class organization with world class volunteers. It is genuinely Golden. And Jim is now the Admiral of the plastic fleet.

    Well done my friend. I hope to see you and Sally at Goose Island.


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