“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.
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:
“Remember why we are doing this – it’s for the warriors.”
Shawn Waggoner, the South Florida Heroes on the Water (HOW) chapter coordinator has first-hand experience with the ups and downs of building a chapter. The South Florida chapter is not yet a year old, and still they have managed to create some pretty amazing events while keeping the momentum going. So what is their secret?
“We remember why we are here, which is for the warriors. It’s not about titles or the job we do. It’s to help and potentially save lives by putting on a good event that has a relaxed, stress-free environment. “
Keeping Priorities Straight
Shawn and the rest of the team stay focused on service to the warriors so they can continue to enhance events and grow the chapter. But that is not always an easy task with a team of volunteers with very diverse personalities. One of the ways they continue to be successful is to recognize the gifts each person brings to the table.
“We all want to serve the warriors, so we make a point to always work as a team. When we first started, we were in different roles. As time passed, we recognized gifts and shifted our leadership team to better utilize those gifts and talents. It takes a lot of openness and maturity to shuffle the deck like that and stay focused.“
“Trauma is difficult to overcome, but HOW has figured out a way.”
Roxanne Coleman understands the difficulties of that can come with serving our country. Her father was wounded in the Korean conflict, and frankly would not talk about it, or his injury. As a retired Army veteran, Roxanne understands how he felt.
“It was not until I did a tour in Korea that dad opened up about his trauma. Even though I had been in the Army more than 10 years, it was walking the same ground he had that prompted a deep discussion. Things he held back for 40 plus years finally came out, and the man was in tears.”
Peace Through the Power of Nature
Roxanne is the senior field marketing manager for Pure Fishing, and believes in giving to veteran centric charities. Heroes on the Water (HOW) is a particular favorite.
“What HOW is doing is really, really important. I have seen the wonderful impact the warriors experience from kayak fishing and am elated to see how it helps them process some of the trauma they experienced.”
“It’s like waiting on a bomb to explode. You need a release valve, and I think there is nothing more relaxing that going out on the water.”
“God knew what He was doing when he created the universe, it is a comfort and blessing to all of us. The way HOW uses that as a method of healing makes perfect sense.”
Go With Something That Works
Jim Dolan calls himself a born and raised redneck bass fisherman. He started a nonprofit in north Texas called Heroes on the Water as a way to give back to the military men and women that have given so much to our country. Heroes on the Water serves the U.S. Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.
“We take them out kayak fishing, which has turned out to be incredibly therapeutic,” said President of Heroes on the Water Jim Dolan. “We had no idea what we were doing and how therapeutic it would be for the guys that are coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. About our fourth outing we found out that what we were doing was more than just taking guys fishing. We saw some changes in people that were pretty amazing.”
“It means a lot just because it shows that people care about us,” said U.S. Army Specialist Juan Carlos Hernandez.
By Nicolette Schleisman
When you think of fishing and kayaking, you probably do not think of therapy. But there is a group of veterans who call it triple therapy, which covers physical, occupational, and mental therapy, all by kayaking.
Stefani McCowan is an Iraq veteran. She came back from Iraq with more than just battle wounds.
She started going to Heroes on the Water four weeks ago. In just a month’s time, she has noticed a drastic change.
“It really helped me with my self esteem and feeling great about who I am,” said McCowan.
Heroes on the Water takes veterans out onto the water in kayaks and with fishing poles to relax.
It gives them the chance to decompress from the stresses of combat and rehabilitation.
“This starts to get them back in the community and get around vets and realize that they’re not alone and that they’re out there and there’s other guys and gals out there dealing with the same stuff that they are,” said Lyle Babcock, Kansas coordinator for Heroes on the Water.