PATUXENT RIVER, Md. (Sept. 22, 2016)—For the third consecutive year, Heroes on the Water (HOW) will launch multiple kayaks from the swimming beach at NRC Solomons Sept. 24, providing some of our nation's wounded warriors a relaxing and rehabilitating day floating along the Patuxent River.
Founded in 2007, HOW is a nationwide community of volunteers and donors who serve anyone from any branch of service, retired or active-duty, who has sought or is receiving treatment for mental or physical injuries.
"As a matter of fact, any service member past or present, first responder and their families are welcome," explained Jim "Coop" Cooper, coordinator of the HOW Maryland Chapter. "We'll be kayak fishing, although some of our participants would rather simply paddle around and relax; and that's perfectly fine. The service member having a relaxing, good time is what it's all about."
The group will receive a quick lesson in kayaking and a safety briefing before heading out, accompanied by volunteer fishing guides and buddies.
"We want them to know they can do a lot more than they might think," Cooper said. "We even have some tandem kayaks to accommodate the vets with guide dogs, which must be with them. We'll give each veteran as much help as they want, and if there are kayaks available, their family can join them."
With their current equipment inventory, Cooper said he can put 30 people on the water at one time and, afterward, everyone is invited to return to the Navy recreation center to enjoy a free lunch and some camaraderie.
"Spending a day on the water and coming back in to shoot the bull with people in a like situation can be a form of therapy," Cooper said. "We've had vets tell us afterward it's one of the best days they've had."
Participation in all HOW events is free and there is no limit as to the number of events a participant can attend.
"People can even take advantage of multiple chapter events as well, so they should look for a chapter wherever they may be traveling," Cooper said. "Just contact them and they'll do their best to take you fishing."
About 60 attendees—comprising participants, volunteers and family members—are expected at this year's event, the group's third trip to the NRC Solomons facility.
"Many of the participants and volunteers are staying here over the weekend in both lodging units and RV sites," noted Carrie Rose, NRC Solomons facility director. "It is an absolute honor to support Coop and the HOW organization for their annual excursion, and the group is welcome to utilize the entire facility while they are here."
At the chapter level, HOW is a volunteer-only organization and each chapter is responsible for raising its own operating funds.
"Without donations from businesses and individuals, we could not purchase and maintain our gear; and we're constantly looking for volunteers," Cooper said. "We especially need kayak fishermen in Maryland who can help us put on these events."
Cooper is a retired chief warrant officer currently serving as a Department of the Army civilian, and he and his volunteers participate in HOW as a way of supporting the troops.
"The volunteers in my chapter who have never served a day in the military are patriotic Americans who appreciate what our service members go through and want to say thank you for their service," he added. "And the Solomons event is the favorite of our volunteers and participants each year."
For more information on Heroes on the Water, visit www.heroesonthewater.org. For information on the Maryland Chapter, visit www.facebook.com/HeroesOnTheWaterMarylandChapter.