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Heroes on the Water folks love this time of year. The buds pop on the trees, blossoms emerge, and the fish really start biting. We emerge from our winter slumber ready to embrace our springtime events that allow us to serve more warriors through kayak fishing, camaraderie and community.

Spring also represents growth, and HOW is no exception. We are adding new chapters, volunteers and leadership every week. Which is why it is so exciting to have a seasoned HOW Nation leader now part of the chapter operations support team.

Meet Amber Helms – HOW Area Coordinator

DSC_1223-001Amber, along with her husband Rusty, and Casey Fugett started the NE Oklahoma chapter in November of 2012. In keeping with their passionate and focused style, they held their first event just a few short months later in February. Amber believes it is the passion that started and keeps the chapter going some four years later.

A conference is simply not complete without great guest speakers, and our 2015 Paddle to Excellence Conference certainly had plenty! In addition to our own team members dedicating time and energy to best practices and training, we were honored to have the following guests join us and share their powerful stories:

 Jacob Schick – “Jake” – U.S. Marine Corps veteran

SchickJake speaks candidly about his experience as a Marine, and the injuries he sustained in Iraq in 2004, and even more candidly about how important it is to support veterans as they return home. Jake understands first-hand the abrupt sadness one feels when your life is suddenly and irreversibly changed by serious injuries. He also knows the challenges of TBI and PTS. Yet he kept going, meeting and marrying his wife after he sustained all his injuries, starting a family, and generously giving his time to helping fellow warriors regain peace and passion for life.

“Especially my kids noticed the positive residual effects of kayak fishing.”

Randy Hay is an active duty sergeant based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. And like many warriors, he strives to live a positive life in spite of bouts of anxiety and a diagnosis of PTSD. Looking for a way to gain some peace and perspective, Randy was intrigued by the posting he saw on the Northwest Kayak Anglers website, so he sent an email to Heroes on the Water asking about an upcoming event. He received an immediate response and signed up to go.Randy - My Encouraged Me

That was in April of 2014. It only took one event for Randy to be “hooked.”

“I was surprised at how accommodating everyone was. They were very organized, and very kind, welcoming everyone as they came in. “

Randy went on to say:

“The number one thing I like about this organization is they put the money to good use.”Have you ever wanted to make the world a better place? There are so many ways to heal the world and the people in it. It is amazing how small acts of generosity can make a big difference in someone else’s life. Yet with so many in need, how do you decide on whom? What is it that motivates you to give back?

You go from being part of a brotherhood, to being alone, to being part of a brotherhood again.”

Our warriors are inspiring and brave individuals who put everything on the line for their friends, family, and millions of strangers. It is a selfless and dangerous line of work to volunteer oneself for duty – one that potentially comes with severe side effects.

Most heroes continue to face challenges they must overcome, even after the so-called real battles have ended. They return home unsure of their future, unable to feel they fit in. Frankly, it’s difficult to re-integrate into an environment that is so different. Being in the military gives you focus and purpose. You know exactly what to do from the time you rise until you go to sleep. However, being at home means radically changing even the most basic of routines, in order to “fit in.”

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