“It’s a good experience to tell your story without having to tell your whole story. Kayak fishing helps make that happen,” Alfredo Arevalo, LT, Metro Nashville Police Department

Alfredo’s story begins with a normal upbringing, but his life took a different turn when he met his wife and later joined the military in 2004. Serving in the Army for four and a half years, he experienced two deployments to Iraq, where he faced the harsh realities of military life.

Being in the military was rough. During my 2005 deployment, my battalion alone lost 22 soldiers,” says Alfredo.

The toll of being away from his family, missing precious moments with his children, and witnessing the loss of fellow soldiers left him questioning why he returned home while others did not. He struggled to communicate the complexities of his experiences to those who had not served.

I wondered why I came back when others lost their loved ones. I kept wondering was there anything I could have done differently”

The Need to Serve Communities

Alfredo and his wife decided that he would not re-enlist, but he has a servant heart. His military experience gave him a taste of what it might be like to be in law enforcement since during his second deployment he ran a local detainee holding area in Iraq as a 31 Echo correction officer. He then participated in a program overseas to run correction facilities for the remainder of his second deployment.

I wanted to continue to serve and always loved helping people,” says Alfredo. “I struggled after leaving the military, and found the close relationships I was missing from my military life in law enforcement. It was nice to find people I could relate to.”

Joining the Metro Nashville Police Department in 2009, he found a sense of camaraderie among fellow officers, and was surrounded by individuals who provided him a support network.

The individual who recruited Alfredo into the department was in the national guard, and was able to help Alfredo see the alignment between the two communities.

Once you are in the PD, you are with a group of people who are aligned, who have an understanding of the evils that exist and how to protect our communities,” says Alfredo. “At the end of the day, I want my family to enjoy their freedoms without worrying, so I’m glad I have the experience to ensure that so they can enjoy life.”

Finding Serenity and Healing

Like many first responders, Alfredo finds it difficult to unwind. He needed a place to decompress and give him an opportunity to reset. He found that in fishing.

I found that being on the water and in nature gave me time to reflect, be alone and not worry about anything else,” says Alfredo. “A buddy invited me to a tournament and that was fun, but I started to wonder why I was paying tournament fees when there should be another way.”

Looking online, Alfredo found Heroes on the Water. He did not find a chapter nearby, so inquired about starting his own.

“Our leadership team is all first responders and it wasn’t difficult to find three buddies to go on this journey with me,” says Alfredo. “We knew a bunch of people who could benefit from recreational therapy, and thought it looked fun.”

Three years ago, the team established the Music City chapter in Nashville, TN. Initially focused on first responders, the chapter expanded to include non-first responder veterans who could benefit from recreational therapy. Through monthly events, participants have the opportunity to unwind, connect with others who share similar backgrounds, and find solace in nature.

Transforming Through Kayak Fishing

Alfredo emphasizes the transformational impact of Heroes on the Water events. By creating a safe space for individuals to share their experiences and emotions, participants are given a chance to decompress and leave their worries behind on the water.

“We are about helping people, and have even conducted private events strictly for a police department that reached out and needed support for their officers,” says Alfredo, “We watched them go out with burdens and then leave them on the water.”

One memorable example Alfredo recalls is a member of the leadership team who initially came to HOW events with little fishing experience but quickly fell in love with kayak fishing. All that person talked about was getting their own kayak because he instantly loved the experience.

Through the support of the community, The Music City chapter became a source of peer support, providing guidance and wellness to others.

Everyone should have the opportunity to find that one person you can talk to and HOW creates that opportunity,” says Alfredo. “Out on the water you witness grown men crying, just letting it out and going from being bottled up to feeling comfortable.”

Alfredo and his team recognize how the recreational therapy of kayak fishing is improving the mental and physical wellbeing of the participants and family members.

It is a good experience to tell your story without having to tell your whole story. You don’t have to tell the details because the others already understand,” says Alfredo. “Recreational therapy really works.

Heroes on the Water is a 501(c)3 that is dedicated to serving our law enforcement, first responders, U.S. military veterans, active-duty, and their families. These brave men and women benefit from recurring participation in our chapter events, like those held at Music City. Help us keep them coming back! Join the Honor Circle today!

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