The Born Outdoorsman
Getting to Know HOW’s COB
Dave Winston loved the outdoors from an early age, starting with fishing and crabbing on the Jersey Shore and moving to hunting as a young teen. He didn’t get this love from his parents, however; he seemed to be born with it.
“I was always big into the outdoors. I was 15 when my boss invited me duck hunting,” says Dave. “I fell in love with it and now hunting is a big part of my life.”
Dave spends his free time outdoors whether it is exercising as a triathlete or hunting or fishing. He has served on non-profit boards since 1997, so combining his love of all things outdoors and passion for giving back made Heroes on the Water a natural choice.
“I was just completing my time as a soccer referee for young athletes, another passion, when the opportunity to serve on the board of HOW was presented,” says Dave. “The existing board members thought my background as a Marine of 20 years, now retired, and my outdoorsmanship made me a good fit. That was in 2011 and I’ve been serving as a board member since.”
Dave is currently the Chairman of the Board for Heroes on the Water, lending the organization the benefit of his military experience, corporate experience as the Industrial Practice leader for Caldwell Partners and love of the outdoors.
Born in Atlantic City, Dave spent much of his youth on the Jersey Shore. His sister, who was quite a bit older, was a Marine officer, giving him his first glimpse of military life.
“I always wanted to fly, so I worked hard, graduated in the top 10 of my class and was fortunate to receive an ROTC scholarship to Villanova,” says Dave. “That scholarship came with a Marine option and a flight guarantee. I wasn’t guaranteed to be a pilot but was guaranteed to have the opportunity.”
Receiving excellent grades was only part of Dave’s achievements in high school. He started working at the age of 11, doing paper routes or sweeping at the 7-11, to working at McDonald’s while also playing three varsity sports. His strong work ethic followed him into his college years and career as a Marine.
Dave, having married his college sweetheart, Joanie, moved to Pensacola, Florida where he flew the transition aircraft (T-34C). Upon graduating from flight school as a helicopter pilot, he was stationed at Marine Corps Air Station New River in Jacksonville, North Carolina flying the CH-53 for nine years before moving to Yuma, Arizona. There were multiple deployments as well as great opportunities.
“As a part of the instructor staff at Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One, we ran two classes per year programs called WTI,” says Dave. “These classes were focused on the train the trainer” principle and consisted of three weeks of academics and three weeks of flying, which culminated in large, combined arms exercises. It was one of the best tours of duty I had.”
During that time, Dave was given the opportunity to write the manual on night vision goggle aerial refueling with a helicopter.
“While it had never been done in the Marine Corps, the Air Force was well-schooled in this. We got approval to borrow an Air Force instructor and he actually sat in the jump seat while we did it for the first time. Having done it on NVGs, aerial refueling seemed absurd without them, but that was all we knew.”
Dave was transferred back to Quantico, Virginia for Command and Staff school, where he was selected to stay a second year at the School in Advanced Warfighting.
“It was sort of a graduate level study where we started with the French-Indian war and marched through time, looking at tactics, technology and politics,” says
Dave. “I read 300 books in nine months. That was the second-best tour because it was really an eye-opening experience. I had really fabulous classmates. Four General Officers came out of that class and the class of 16 were all really smart, good folks.”
Dave chose to retire in 1997 and move his family to Texas.
“Looking back on that 20 years, it went by really fast. I’ve been through the Suez Canal eight times, north of the Arctic circle, four. The south of the equator, four. I just traveled the world. It was just a great, great experience. I made some wonderful friends,” says Dave. “I was in Haiti, I was in Somalia, I was in Beirut, I was in Bosnia. We were in Somalia right after the Rangers got shot down. You know it’s fortunate. I got shot at a few times, but never hit. I never saw any real high intensity conflict. It was a good run, no regrets, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”
Being outdoors, fishing, hunting and enjoying life with his family is still a major part of Dave’s life. He moved from hunting with shotguns to rifles to bowhunting in 1990, and then back again.
“I got four bull elk with a bow and a handful of deer and wild pigs,” says Dave. “I got back into shooting and took a long-range hunting course in Wyoming. During our final field class I had to hit the vitals of a coyote size target with a 10 mile per hour crosswind at over 1100 yards.” The hold was about eight feet left with a 22 foot bullet drop; we all hit it.
He recently acquired his first hunting dog – a Wirehaired Pointer Griffon named Gracie.
His two sons, Alex and Eric, are avid outdoorsmen. Alex enjoys fly fishing and ties his own flies. He and Dave enjoyed a fly-fishing trip to Belize, where Dave landed a 25-pound tarpon on a 10-weight fly rod. They have fished in Wyoming and Colorado as well. His younger son Eric has a bull with a bow under his belt as well and enjoyed hunting the Rockies on horseback.
Alex also recently retrofitted a F350 Econoline van with foam insulation, wood paneling, running water, LED lights, and solar power so he can travel the United States and enjoy a sabbatical after a year and half on the road as a consultant in the retail sector.
“Fishing and being outdoors is a great way to spend time with family. Joanie likes to hike, and both my sons enjoy all sorts of activities,” says Dave.
Dave and Joanie have been married for over 41 years and chose to enjoy each other’s company before having their first child, Alex, after 13 years of marriage.
“Joanie is active in the Mansfield Cares program that supports the local food bank,” says Dave. “She loves to cook, travel and is a great life partner. She has a big heart, great smile, good sense of humor and is from Jersey, which means you don’t want to make her mad.”
Heroes on the Water
Dave believes in Heroes on the Water’s mission and shared his thoughts on the impact of the organization.
“In 2014 we did an outing close to my home. Jim Dolan and I were standing on the bank, watching the veterans raft up in the middle of the tank to talk, when we heard a big laugh come across the water. The man’s wife started crying, looked at us and said ‘Did you hear that? I haven’t heard that in two years.’ That is what keeps me going. I’m not out there doing what the chapter coordinators do, but if I can help drive the organization and keep it going just so somebody can have a moment like that, it’s worth it.”
It’s those types of personal connections Dave wants to see the organization have as a major goal. Finding ways to balance what we have to do to maintain a healthy organization with what we want to do, serving more through kayak fishing experiences, is important. Much like the need for administrative control and operational control in the military, and the resulting conflict between the two, HOW will need to find a way to balance both to succeed.
“We used to laugh in the Marines about someone saying they were from headquarters and here to help,” says Dave. “It’s important that at HOW we put aside any administrative and operational differences and pull together for the good of the veterans.”
Dave recognizes how critical fundraising is, and the impact of recent tax laws adding to the hurdles of achieving fundraising goals.
“We really must come together to drive the organization forward as a team,” says Dave. “Our current staff has made a positive contribution. I feel our leadership team is very effective, and our chapters are pulling together to make positive impact.”
“At the end of the day we need to get folks off the couch and make it enjoyable for everyone. PADDLE FISH HEAL says it all. Let’s keep padding in the same direction, fishing for fun and have as many healing opportunities as we can.”