After retiring from the Army in 2010, Andrew Beaudoin quickly realized he had post-traumatic stress. Finding the less stressful lifestyle in the Adirondack Mountains was appealing and he found the solitude in nature calming.
“I found peace on the water, but I did not realize at first that was what was helping me cope with my PTSD,” says Andrew.
Andrew went to a tiny college and majored in Fish and Wildlife Management. Because he enjoyed his time on the water, he became a licensed guide in New York state. Having a heart for service, Andrew also worked with the veteran’s club at his college.
“I was using my guide service to take veterans out kayak fishing, and building custom rods,” says Andrew. “I would not charge them because I wanted to give back. It did start to cut into my business profits, however. But that did not stop me.”
Andrew helped many other veterans get their guide licenses so they could also enjoy time on the water and make a living. Knowing that the kayak fishing was helping so many, and still wanting to maintain his guide service, Andrew began looking for a non-profit that would meet the needs of the veterans he was serving as well as his own. He found Heroes on the Water.
PADDLE. FISH. HEAL.
Andrew looked for organizations online that would support his needs and was tailored to what he was doing. Heroes on the Water (HOW) has years of service using kayak fishing as the major modality for our programs. While there are a few others out there, Andrew chose HOW.
“HOW covers the nation and has a much bigger footprint,” says Andrew. “Also, I have a sponsorship through Jackson Kayak, who is also a partner with HOW. That made it an easy decision.”
One of the benefits Andrew found in starting a new chapter with HOW was the effectiveness of the process and working with the leadership team.
“I was able to review the website, get my action items lined up and then applied,” says Andrew. “It’s easier than you think. Camille (Volunteer Programs Director) made it simple.”
A New Chapter
The Heroes on the Water Adirondack chapter was born, and quickly. It only took a couple of weeks before the chapter was up and running, with Andrew leading as Chapter Coordinator.
“I had my network in place, so went to the college and found a couple of veterans to volunteer,” says Andrew. “Then I donated the chapter time on my guide service kayaks so we could have our first event.”
The chapter is now working to fundraise to have their own kayaks so they can serve even more veterans and first responders. For now, the team can use Andrew’s kayaks, and take veterans out both for scheduled HOW events and for one-on-one or small groups.
“We are looking forward to having HOW chapter kayaks to further our mission,” says Andrew. “Giving a new mission to our participants makes a big difference in their healing.”
Andrew knows that the participants are not the only ones who benefit. In fact, he believes volunteers receive an even bigger reward for providing their time.
“It’s better to give than receive. Our volunteers have a bigger purpose now and it really helps them,” says Andrew. “There are HOW chapters all over the country. Find one relatively close and go volunteer. Or start a chapter near you. It is worth the effort and the rewards are there.”
One of the volunteers on Andrew’s team is proof positive that volunteering and kayak fishing support wellness.
“One of our volunteers is an avid kayak fisherman and participates in tournaments all over the country. But he does not really talk much,” says Andrew. “Getting him out and encouraging him to interact has really helped him. Now he loves chatting up one on one. Volunteering has helped him more than the people he is chatting up.”
Providing that opportunity through volunteering and participation is crucial to support our heroes and their families. People like Andrew and his team are really the heart of HOW.
The 3 P’s – Patience – Perspective – Purpose
When Andrew talks to veterans, he provides sage advice in the form of 3 P’s:
“I give them my philosophy using the three P’s because I’ve personally experienced this and found it helped me,” says Andrew.
Andrew says the 3 P’s are:
Patience – fishing in general teaches patience. You can sit all day and not catch anything. There wasn’t anything I could do to change it and I had to learn to be patient with myself. I felt like the Army trained me to be impatient. Patience is important.
Perspective – to be outside all day requires a good perspective. There are a lot worse places you would be. Having a good perspective makes you a happier person.
Purpose – I found when I left Army no sense of purpose. I needed something to put my mind to work or my PTSD got worse. I became more anxious. Now with my HOW chapter and helping others my mind is calmer. I spend a lot of time teaching kids to fish. That focus and purpose toward fishing and teaching has calmed my anxiety.
Andrew had a consistent head twitch both in and out of Army that lasted 10 years.
“I did not take medication to rectify the issue. I’ve calmed down and I attribute it those three P’s.”
The new sense of purpose gives many a way to get out of their comfort zone and focus on something bigger. That is one of the ways volunteers receive major benefits from being part of a HOW chapter.
“When we have new veterans attend our events, they often show up quiet. Some are pretty shy,” says Andrew. “After kayak fishing and then joining us for lunch, they open up. They find fishing buddies and can take kayak fishing on as a new hobby. It’s great to see the positive changes in the people we serve, and how the volunteers receive so much from giving back.”
Heroes on the Water is a 501(c)3 that is dedicated to serving our U.S. military veterans, active-duty, law enforcement, first responders and their families. Want to support chapters like Adirondack? Join the Honor Circle today!