“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.“
Two years ago Tracy Detwiler died. He was in the hospital and diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, COPD, and a host of health problems. He was on the table for a gall bladder operation where he met his fate. Then a miracle happened. Tracy Detweiler was revived. After 12 days in an intensive care unit, Tracy came back to us from death’s doorstep. Tracy is not a Veteran, and to hear him talk, he would claim that he isn’t special.
There are times in my life where the load I carry is far too much for one man.
I am not talking about just weight of emotion, stress, or grief, but a weight on my soul that runs through every bit of my being. The weight comes from a place that I remember rather vividly, and there are stresses and triggers that I have yet to discover. I will say that all things considered, I am a lucky person to have escaped the wrath that is the “Global War on Terror.”
However, the terror is still present inside me. There have been many young men and women who have served our nation in times of need. Not just in the heat of battle, but during peacetime, training, and non-combat scenarios. As we go through our military careers we meet a great deal of people. Some of these people we may only know for a short time during a training exercise, or an additional school we attend. Some of these people will never leave our side. These people become the reason for all of the tenacity that we Americans fight with. It turns from something personal as you worry about your own wellbeing, to the most selfless care for your brothers and sisters throughout the Military. The bond of this family has yet to be matched in my own experience.
“The little things that life throws at me pale in comparison to what others are dealing with every day.”
Greg and I are long time friends that only get to see each other at our antique fishing tackle swap meets. I had taken a few HOW brochures with me to the Milwaukee swap meet and Greg picked up one and asked about Heroes on the Water. I shared with him what HOW is all about.
The next day we picked up the discussion, and a couple of other lure collectors joined in. I had the opportunity to share some of the stories about how many of our veterans are returning after multiple tours and are struggling to reintegrate into a public life. I also shared various stories how the program has impacted, saved lives, and provided an outlet for relaxation for both the veteran and their family. Stories such as the veteran who stuttered, but after a morning on the water, he came off the water and the stuttering was gone, Jason’s story, Jeremiah’s story, and other anecdotal stories.
A while later a wonderful letter arrived from Greg with a donation. One never knows how far and wide HOW will impact lives.
I have spent a lot of time over the last couple of weeks thinking about the conversations we had in Milwaukee. It has really stayed with me and as I try to relay your story’s and experiences to my wife, I still have a hard time not getting very emotional all over again. As I reflect on my life’s experiences I don’t know that anything has ever had this kind of continuing effect on me.
I think what you are doing and accomplishing is so special!
I started this letter several times and just can’t seem to get it right. I just want you to understand the impact you had on me and my thought processes. It seems that I am looking at each day and every interaction that I have a little differently than before. I don’t think that I ever had a “bad” attitude, but I know that it is better today! The little things that life throws at me pale in comparison to what others are dealing with every day, how can you not be thrilled with every day. I guess maybe it’s perspective.
I guess the easiest way to say it is, you changed the way I look at my life and family! I have never had the good fortune to meet anyone that has had a such a positive effect.
So Thank You for what you continue to do for our Veterans and Thank You for sharing it with me, you really made a difference.
I look forward to seeing you down the road somewhere before too long, maybe at Nationals.
Tight Lines and God Bless,
Shared by George Chrisman, HOW-DFW Chapter Coordinator
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.