Native Watercraft Recognizes Kristen Ray Umbehagen, HOW Outstanding Participant
SRA Kristen Ray Umbehagen
In Heroes on the Water our goal is find peace out on the water. The first day that Kristen Umbehagen came to the Emerald Coast Chapter she had been referred to the Chapter by her commander who knew the benefits HOW bring to the active duty service member dealing with operational and combat stress. Kristen’s job is one of the most stressful in the Air Force, and this was compounded by the lost of two of her closest high school friends in car accidents in the same month.
On her first trip out she had a 30+lb Jack Carville struck her line, hooked on to a freight train of a fish her boat spun around and her line began to spool. She could be heard from the beach hooting and hollering. In less than 3 minutes her rod was stripped clean. Her HOW Wingman was able to wrestle a sister fish to the Kayak and handed the fish to Kristen. He was proud of how long she stayed with one of the toughest fish to catch on light tackle. It was after that trip Kristen came in with a smile on her face. She was hooked and loved the way fishing made her feel. It also gave her the strength to ask for help.
Over the winter she was able to get ahead of the stress she had been carrying and began to heal. She openly admits that one of her greatest achievements is that she is still here. Those where tough days for the Emerald Coast Chapter’s Lil Sister, but she came back with a newly found commitment to life, her boy friend and Heroes on the Water. Over the next year she rarely missed an event and began to be a leader and guide. She then took over the HOW Swag and assisted with the gear trailer. Finally, she took over the job of Chapter Secretary and has the program organized and squared away.
Through the two years Kristen has progressed from participant, teammate and leader. When the Native Watercraft company asked if we had a nominee for the HOW Outstanding Participant, Kristen was a logical choice. Her Big Brothers Pete Lauter and Craig Shelton presented the Kayak, Kristen was teary eyed! Her native slayer is Hot Pink Camo was named SweetPea before Kristen took her out on the water. Kristen is a leader in the USAF and in HOW, she served as a team member for the first of HOW’s JOURNEY Retreats and is committed to helping others. She continues to serve other warriors as a part of HOW and as an enlisted mentor In 2014 she married Emmet Umbehagen and they are extremely happy!
Written by Frank Dailey, II, HOW Director of Therapeutic Programs