Affording satisfaction; valuable experience; worthwhile. This is the textbook definition of rewarding. It is also a perfect description of HOW, and what, I feel when I am volunteering with Heroes on the Water. I started kayak fishing in 2009, and immediately experienced the enjoyment that this sports affords me. However, it wasn’t until my first Heroes on the Water event in 2014 that I was able to experience that enjoyment through another kayak angler.
At my first HOW event I was both nervous and excited. Excited to be able to help HOW with its mission of providing an outdoors environment where our warriors would be able to relax as well as rehabilitate. Nervous since this was my first event and I was not sure of what to expect, but also because I did not serve in the armed forces I was not sure if I would be able to make a connection through shared experiences. Thankfully the participant that I had the honor of guiding had an affable personality as well as a self-deprecating sense of humor which I can definitely relate to and appreciate. He quickly showed me that I did not have to worry about having previous shared experiences as we were on the water making them together.
Since that first event, I have been able to volunteer at over a dozen fishing events and informational displays at fishing shows. Each and every one of those both rewarding and educational in their own individual way. I learned that some warriors liked to talk about fishing, home, hunting, football, family, and numerous other topics. More importantly, I learned that some warriors just wanted to quietly spend time on the kayak. Some wanted to fish hard and paddle a lot. Some wanted to just peacefully float where the current or wind took them. Some even paddled over to the nearest stand of trees and napped in the shade. This helped to reinforce the understanding that the event was for them and to let them guide me on where they wanted to go.
While each and every event is fulfilling, I have found that personally none more so then when attendees are from a military hospital where they are currently convalescing. These brave soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen are facing a daily battle that I cannot imagine. And if I am able to help them share in the passion, joy and love that I have for kayak fishing, then that is a huge win in my book.
For more information about Heroes on the Water and on how to volunteer, visit their website.