|  | Feb 27, 2024

Healing from the scars of war can come in many forms. Some veterans have found peace through music or golf – and some, like Air Force veteran Jim Dolan, found it through kayak fishing.

Dolan, a giant of a man in stature with an even bigger heart, was a major in the Air Force who sought to help veterans heal through kayak fishing. His passion coupled with the passion of others eventually led to the creation of Heroes on the Water, long after his passing.

Seventeen years after Heroes on the Water was founded in 2007, the non-profit organization has served more than 61,000 veterans, first responders and their families.

“Enthusiastic, like-minded people wanted to share their love of kayak fishing,” said Heroes on the Water spokesperson Faeda Elliott. “Our founder felt it might be a good way to help our veterans get off the couch and into nature.”

After Dolan and volunteers initially took soldiers from Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio on a kayak fishing trip for the first time, he realized he had a program that could make a difference in the lives of veterans looking for ways to cope with issues like post-traumatic stress disorder and other challenges vets commonly encounter while transitioning into civilian life.

One of those vets is Pat Cochrane, who served 12 years as a logistics officer in the Army, both on active duty and with the National Guard. His nine years of active duty included three deployments and direct ground combat during Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2006 to 2008.

Cochrane suffered through psychological and emotional effects of combat stress and survivors’ guilt as well as the transition stress of finding post-military employment. He is currently the senior manager of routing operations and capability for PepsiCo, based in Plano, Texas. He is also a member of PepsiCo’s VALOR Employee Resource Group that helps employees and their spouses who are transitioning from the military.

“I know firsthand the stressors that service members and their families go through, from personal loss to multiple deployments, training rotations, and more,” Cochrane said. “Throughout military service, there’s very little downtime to process what you are feeling and sacrificing. In my own transition, it was important for me to find moments where I could quiet my mind and reflect on my own experiences.”

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