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Here in Alabama we have a new Heroes of the Water (HOW) chapter known as HOW North Alabama.  Their first kayak fishing event was held a couple of months ago on Lake Guntersville and it was an overwhelming success.  We had dozens of volunteers, a few families, a soon-to-be family, several veterans, barbeque, and dozens of kayaks from several different brands.  No doubt, it was one of the best times a group of kayakers have had in north Alabama.  And without revealing any intimate personal information, suffice it to say that the event has already positively impacted persons and families of those in which HOW targets.

Without attending the event and getting to know its founder better, I am unsure if I would fully understand how this chapter is already impacting lives of those that struggle with inner demons.  HOW exists to help veterans take their mind off dark shadows of the past. It is designed to hopefully help relieve the daily pressure that thousands upon thousands of veterans feel in their everyday life. 

The serenity of floating on a body of water, present worries transcended, relaxes the soul and may slightly begin part of a healing process.  You yourself feel it when you are in your kayak, immersed in nature, departed from your daily grind and personal struggles.  And more important than the boat, water, and scenery are the relationships that are built at these types of events.  A short conversation with someone may, in one way or another, open a door to relief, reconciliation, resolution, or restoration.

I guess I have been na├»ve as to just how many people around me are still haunted by things from the past.  Many people with these struggles are really great at masking their pain so that it is undetectable to onlookers. Asking for help is hard to do.

If you are reading this, you probably have a few people in your life that battle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You may know one or more, but you certainly are unaware of all who presently struggle. I guarantee you that some of the people you interact with everyday seem normal on the outside and yet on the inside they, and maybe even their family, struggle.  I was that way.  I did not realize that so many friends, coworkers, and even family members live with great mental pain.  After all, in our culture mental health is unfortunately a bit of a taboo topic.

I happen to work around dozens of military veterans daily.  I have heard countless stories about an awesome mission or cool situation that these veterans were in long ago—stories of flying a helicopter through extreme weather, stories of getting to live in and tour some of the most beautiful places on the planet, stories of camaraderie, brotherhood, and accomplishment.  Yet in the near 20 years I have been in this environment, I have never heard a veteran tell me about the effects of an event that happened so many years ago still causing them agony.

As it turns out, veterans even struggle to open up about the past even with those that live with similar types of pains from similar types of situations.

Heroes on the Water helps veterans connect with nature and other veterans. It opens a door to a path of healing. With a large Army base in the heart of north Alabama, the area is a surrounded by the biggest names in the military industry.  Tens of thousands of veterans live, work, and go to school here.  A chapter like HOW is going to go a long way to helping others heal in our local community and around the state.

The next HOW North Alabama event is August 5th, 2017 at the Town Creek Fishing Center near the Guntersville State Park in Guntersville, AL. For more information, check out the HOW North Alabama Facebook page here: