Heroes on the Water (HOW) teamed up with Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) to provide a group of wounded troops and their families a little fun in the sun on the Patuxent River Sept. 21.
Both organizations serve anyone from any branch of the military service, retired or active-duty, who has sought or is receiving treatment for mental or physical injuries.
After a safety briefing and a quick lesson on kayaking for the first-timers, the group – which numbered around 50 – launched their kayaks from the beach at Navy Recreation Center Solomons accompanied by volunteer fishing guides and buddies, and spent a few relaxing hours fishing or just floating on the water.
HOW believes the wounded and ill benefit from such a stress-free event by offering an alternative form of therapy to aid in their recovery.
“HOW gives them a family to belong to again, a unit, if you will, where they can be with folks who have shared the same experiences and situations; a comfort level that many cannot find on their own, separated from service,” explained Jim “Coop” Cooper, coordinator of the HOW Maryland Chapter. “For those still under treatment, it’s a break from treatment. It gets them out of the shell they may have withdrawn into and gets them back socializing, not only with others, but more importantly in some cases, with their own families.”
HOW supports anyone who has ever served in the military, including civilians, for any length of time. That also includes first responders and their families.
“For the average service member or first responder, it also provides recognition for their selfless service,” Cooper added. “It’s a way for us to say thank you and show our appreciation for what they do for all of us.”
With the exception of 2018, when the event was cancelled due to an approaching hurricane, HOW has held an event at NRC Solomons for the past seven years.
“The day was fantastic with blue skies and a lovely breeze off the water,” said Carrie Jay, the NRC installation program director. “Seeing our warriors and their families enjoying a day reconnecting with each other, their peers, and nature is a gift. Seeing this event continue to grow and knowing how dedicated Coop and his team are to our warriors is not only humbling, it’s an honor to play a supporting role in executing it.”
The partnership this year between HOW and WWP seemed a natural fit, and when Jenny Chenko, outreach specialist with WWP, reached out to Cooper about the possibility of teaming with them to provide a fishing event for their wounded troops, he didn’t hesitate.
“HOW doesn’t advertise, we rely on word of mouth to promote what we do to veterans, first responders and their families,” Cooper noted. “When we team with another veteran/first responder organization, it exposes more of them to us and what we do – and that’s beneficial to everyone.”
Cooper retired from active duty in 2000 and now works as a Department of the Army civilian. He and his all-volunteer staff participate in HOW as a way of supporting the troops and plan as many as 18 events per year.
“My leadership team is made up of great people,” he added. “They range from active-duty to surveyors, housewives, defense contractors, just about every walk of life. They believe, as I do, in giving back and ensuring our veterans, service members, first responders, and their families all know how much we appreciate their service and sacrifice.”
For more information on Wounded Warrior Project, go to www.supportwoundedwarriorproject.org. Anyone interested in finding out more about the Heroes on the Water-Maryland Chapter can visit their Facebook page
“There you’ll see everything we’ve been up to for the past seven years,” Cooper said. “Click on the events tab and see all upcoming events. Click on anything that interests you and sign up so we’ll know how many are coming. There are no memberships and we don’t charge anything, it’s free. And they’re welcome at not only all of our events, they can attend other HOW chapter events as well.”
Meanwhile, Jay is looking forward to next year’s event.
“NRC is a hidden gem and to be afforded the opportunity to share this with our wounded service members and their families brings the team so much joy and a tremendous sense of pride,” she said.