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.
Infantry Paratrooper, Alex Minarik is no stranger to the outdoors. However, after he was injured, most of his time was spent alone, in his barracks room. Matt Griffith, a volunteer with Heroes on the Water, invited Alex to spend a day on the water, kayak fishing. Alex reluctantly agreed to go. His wife, Katie, was invited to be with him. They both had a good time and Alex’s life began to change.