Heroes on the Water: Why It’s Important E-mail
Written by Tony Hart   
Friday, 03 February 2012 15:19

HOW

It’s very easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle over everyday life.  We’ve got families, facebook, twitter, and anything else you can think of to keep our minds occupied.  For many of us, anything involving our military or actions overseas is learned

through our local newscasts.  Unfortunately, once the news stops covering the conflicts or wars, that information flow is lost.  More often than not what the newscasts don’t cover or bring to light are the soldiers returning home, or how their lives are after fighting and defending our freedoms.  We’re all so busy living our own lives that we easily forget those who don the uniform of our nation’s military.  We never hear of their transition back to a “normal” life or the families that they have.        

This has been an unfortunate fact of our society. Most Americans are not even aware of the programs available to support our wounded and returning veterans from Iraq & Afghanistan.  One very important program that is changing lives of not only the veterans, but of the volunteers, who support it as well, is Heroes on the Water.  Heroes on the Water (HOW) is a program that was started in October 2007 by Jim Dolan, a military veteran of the Air Force, to support our returning wounded military members.  Four years later, there are currently 38 different chapters across the United States.

I, myself, have been a volunteer and avid supporter of HOW since June of 2011.  I’ve taken out several young men who’ve returned from combat from overseas.  My last trip was truly memorable, and shows why this is such an important program to support and help our returning veterans in their healing process. Our January event had the ideal setting, perfect weather and calm winds.  A friend and I were paired up with a young retired Army sergeant, Zach Bass.  Zach had never saltwater fished and had never fished from a kayak before.  Zach went on to inform us that he had only been fishing a few times before, mostly pond fishing, and that he had never caught a fish.  Zach let us know that he didn’t believe that he had the patience for fishing.  Of course, that simply fueled our desire to make sure Zach was able to prove himself wrong.

HOW22

 

Zach had served in Ramadi, Iraq with the 2nd Brigade Combat team in 2006.  He has survived IED roadside bombs, and RPG rounds.  He suffers from TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).  I asked Zach if he had any reservations about the Heroes on the Water Event, and he stated that he doesn’t like crowds, because he gets the shakes.  He said that after spending a few minutes with us, it felt like he’d known us for a long time, and all his reservations quickly evaporated.

We fished the day with Zach, and he ended up catching a few fish that day.  His total equaled 3 redfish and 2 black drum.  What truly resonated with me on the paddle back to the barbecue was the smile on Zach’s face and his excitement over catching those fish.  Although it was a slow day of fishing, those few fish made all the difference in the world to a true American hero.

The goal of Heroes on the Water for Jim Dolan “is to serve as many wounded military across the country as possible.  When we have the funding to set chapters up, we anticipate 150 to 200 Chapters serving over 10,000 wounded warriors.  There are currently over 300,000 wounded veterans across the country.”  The motto of Heroes on the Water is “Paddle, Fish, Heal”.  For more information on how you can help make a difference and support such a wonderful program, visit www.heroesonthewater.org

 

Tony Hart, Malibu Kayaks Pro Staff

Heroes on the Water volunteer

 

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