We received the following anonymous letter from one of our warrior’s. Her story is powerful and captures the essence of the impact our outings have on those who participate.
Whether a Veteran of the United States Armed Forces served in wartime or peacetime, overseas, or solely in the United States, one never knows by looking at her what she’s been through.
I served during a time of peace, I never saw real combat, but still, I had some experiences during my tour of duty that left lasting impressions upon my soul, some of which were anything but pleasant. Emotionally damaging military experiences… whether brought on by my own stupidity and bad choices as a very young, very naïve teenager leaving home for the first time, or perhaps occurring because of a predator-type individual who may have been in a position of authority looking to take advantage of that innocence… changed me. By the time I exited the military, I felt a good deal of shame and faulted myself for many things, even some things that I now know were not my fault.
For decades after leaving the military, I continued to be timid, I let people walk all over me, I was always worried, scared to trust anyone or to share my own opinions or feelings. I was insecure about every decision I made, I was frightened of my own shadow.
Then, like an answered prayer, Heroes on the Water (HOW) entered my life. I cannot thank the organization and all of its volunteers enough for what they do. In the year I have been participating, I have grown stronger, more confident, less critical of myself, and better able to form lasting relationships where I’m able to express my feelings without fear. I’ve even lost a little of that excess weight I’ve been trying to get rid of… all while doing something fun.
How in the world does paddling the water and catching fish in a kayak do all that for a person? I don’t really know for sure, but I am pretty sure it’s not JUST the kayak, the water, the fishing gear, and the fish. I have never been a part of something as profound as HOW, and the people who volunteer their time to this great organization.
I have never felt so safe, so connected, so loved by others who do not want or ask for anything from me in return. The kind of peace that HOW has gifted me is priceless – a wounded young person who lives in a grownup’s body is, decades later, beginning to heal. Amazingly, this healing is finally happening without drugs, without alcohol, and without extensive and expensive therapy while seated uncomfortably on some stranger’s couch.
I’m certainly no hero to anyone, but the HOW organization, its cadre of staff members and best volunteers ever, and all of their corporate and private sponsors are Heroes to me. Thank you Heroes on the Water – you have changed my soul, and this time it’s a glorious change for the good.
Heroes on the Water (HOW) exists to help warriors and veterans unwind and reconnect on their journey home. Volunteers across the country have stepped forward to serve our nation’s Heroes and their families by providing the HOW kayak fishing program in their local area.
Over the past 6 ½ years, the HOW program has expanded into 25 states within the United States, as well as in Australia and the United Kingdom. Since the beginning of 2014, HOW has received numerous inquiries from individuals and groups interested in bringing the program to the warriors in their community. Growth is expected to accelerate.
As new chapters form, they seek funding and kayak fishing gear to get the program running. Chapter leaders that have been through the start-up mode and are now fully functioning understand the challenges.
“We now have chapters helping chapters get started” says founder, Jim Dolan. “At our recent 2014 HOW Training Conference, Chris Thomas, chapter coordinator of the HOW – Indiana Chapter, presented $1,000 to Adam Dresden, chapter coordinator for the new HOW – Heartland Chapter in Nebraska. How awesome is that.” Adam and the leaders were surprised and grateful for the support which expedites their ability to help wounded warriors de-stress through kayak fishing.
Veterans and volunteers gathered together for four days of kayak building and camaraderie. Stay tuned for the inaugural launch of the fleet at the HOW Chapter’s April 26th outing.
Raul Casas, chapter coordinator recaps the building process:
DAY 1 – From wooden strips to a kayak frame – progress!