DALLAS MORNING NEWS: AFTER WAR, A PEACEFUL PLACE TO PLAY
Wounded veterans find respite on fishing trips.
The young men in kayaks arrive at the muddy shore of Moss Lake near Gainesville, smiling and mocking each other’s fishing skills. They seem relaxed, miles away in body, mind and spirit from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan and the injuries they suffered there.
Many of the veterans don’t look injured. They don’t have missing limbs or visible scars. Most have traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder and soft-tissue injuries. They are suffering on the inside, and every day is a battle since they returned from war. But today, out on the water, they are happy.
These wounded warriors are taking steps toward recovery thanks to Heroes on the Water, an Allen-based nonprofit created by fellow veteran Jim Dolan. He and his team of volunteers organize kayak fishing outings for veterans who are suffering from war disabilities.
“It’s the best therapy I’ve ever had,” says Ray Queen of Weatherford. Queen served one 15-month tour in Iraq from 2006 to 2008 where he suffered two traumatic brain injuries. He’s also been diagnosed with PTSD and fibromyalgia and takes 22 pills a day, including mood stabilizers, dream suppressors and muscle relaxers. He’s in constant pain and can’t have children, and he’s had multiple cavities because of the pills. He’s 25.
“I still have two head doctors. But there’s nothing like [kayaking]. I get lost. I forget to smoke, eat, drink. It’s all about fishing,” he says.