Monday, April 16, 2012

This is HOW I say thanks.......

In the past, I have been blessed with many new opportunities both in business and in my personal life.  I cherish the work that I have done and currently do on a daily basis, but I often find myself getting anxious to get home and spend time with my son.  You see, he is growing up before my eyes, albeit too quickly for my tastes, but nonetheless, it is happening.  I wasn't blessed with a spoiled childhood, but I wasn't deprived either.  My parents did what they could to provide for my sister and I, and I am thankful for it.  I pride myself on trying to teach my son what it means to give thanks and show appreciation towards others.

I truly wish there were more hours in the day, because I constantly find myself wanting to do more......more for my family, more for my friends and most recently more for HOW.  That's Heroes On the Water for those of you that have never heard of it.  HOW is an non-profit organization founded by Jim Dolan in Texas and goes to great lengths to show appreciation and gratitude for the sacrifices and loyal service our military service members have made.  As a former service member myself, I know of the pains and struggles of being separated from your family and friends unexpectedly due to a deployment.  I know of the challenges faced abroad when you are sent into a foreign country in the spirit of protecting the premise of human rights.  I too know what its like to fear for one's safety during a time of conflict.

For many service members, their service to our country is often uneventful.  They never have to see the effects of war or conflict and are considered by many fortunate and lucky.  For those that have served in times of strife and conflict, it does not always end without some form of change in their life.  Some of these changes are physical but often times, the most treacherous and harmful changes are those that affect the mind and spirit of the fighting soldier.  Too the untrained eye, it is often mistakenly assumed that these service members that walk amongst us on a daily basis are living normal lives just like the rest of the public.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  You see, we as the public are spared the psychological trauma and effects the events experienced abroad can have on the mind and spirit.  Many of these service members returning stateside are often in need of an escape or a means to soothe the troubles they experienced while serving in the interest of democracy and protecting the personal freedoms of others.  This is where Heroes On the Water has made its stand......on the battlefield in defense and support of the service member's mind and soul.  It is a tricky landscape thwarted with hidden landmines and obstacles to overcome, yet the individuals that represent HOW stand firm and resolute in their commitment to honoring our service members and giving back to them.

I have been fortunate enough to work with two different HOW Chapters here in Virginia, the Tidewater and the Central Virginia groups.  I am primarily affiliated with the Central VA Chapter; however, when my schedule permits, I make every effort to contribute to the Tidewater Chapter as well.  In the past three years, I have have the pleasure of being involved with fund raisers, hands-on demonstrations, benefit tournaments, outdoor sports expos and daily events on the water.  While the various events are always beneficial and ultimately raise awareness about HOW, it is the time on the water with our service members that I find to be the most fulfilling.

2012 marks an aggressive schedule for both chapters I volunteer with.  The Central VA Chapter has 2 outings a month planned for the service members in the Richmond and surrounding tri-cities area, while the Tidewater Chapter is also planning a similar schedule in the Chesapeake peninsula area here in VA.  The first on the water event of the 2012 year was held this past weekend at Rudee Inlet in Virginia Beach, VA.

A good friend and fellow kayak angler Cory Routh of Ruthless Outdoor Adventures was able to capture some great footage of the outing as well.  We were blessed with a mild day albeit with windy conditions, but the day was a success on many levels.  We were able to have a safe and fun outing on the water.  We were able to lead the service members to the right areas and they caught several fish.  We also succeeded in having family members of the service members on the water at the same time and getting them involved in the catching of fish as well.

It was a successful day by all accounts and one that I will not soon forget.  While I wasn't able to spend that time on the water with my family due to my son's baseball schedule, I did share the experience with them through the photos I was able to capture and the details of the day later that evening.  I try to help my son understand why this is so important not only to me, but to the service members that I shared the water with today.

You see, the youth of today often latch on to names like Kobe, D-Wade, Lebron, Dale Jr., and the like due to media and various forms of social exposure.  These kids grow up thinking that these names are someone they should look to as a hero and having an impact on their lives.  Not to take away anything from that high school teacher that impacted your life, or the next door neighbor that cared for you during times of strife and struggle.  Rather, I hope that one day my son will look back at all the things I have done and might possibly view me as one in some form.  In the end, I hope he can look past all of that and see that the true heroes of our time are the men and women that serve in the defense of their country on a daily basis around the world, so that we can have the luxury of having a day to share with one another.

To them, I say thank you.  You are my hero!

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