Monday, May 21, 2012

In the company of heroes.......

The weekend began with kayak anglers descending upon a secluded field in nearby rural Rice, VA minutes from Farmville, VA.  To the everyday traveler or local resident, the driveway marked with orange barrier tape would have given little insight into the fellowship and brotherhood that would soon commence over the course of the forthcoming 48 hours.  A quick glance across the field soon revealed how important this event would be to kayak anglers both near and far.  We had representation from places as far away as Texas, Georgia and New Jersey.
By nightfall, it was clear how dedicated the kayak angling family is.  We had approximately 60 registered anglers by the time the Captain's Meeting started Friday evening, which did not include the late arrivals or others that registered the morning of the event the following day.  The popularity of this event is growing, and each year, the number of participants increases all in support of Heroes On the Water and the multitudes of service members returning from their service to our country.
The format of the tournament was fairly straightforward and familiar to most with the basic parameters of first line in the water at first light, an assigned identifier, catch-photo-release of all entered fish with the assigned identifier visible and an angler check-in no later than 4pm.  After the requisite rules overview and answers to some angler questions, we all were treated to a steak dinner with green beans, baked potatoes, bread and cake.  The rest of the evening was spent meeting new people, making new friends and placing faces with names previously known only via the numerous kayak angling web forums.

While the social aspect of these tournaments is an added bonus, it further exemplifies how simplistic the concept truly is yet how profound the impact can be.  HOW tournaments and events are centered around pairing up experienced kayak anglers with service members who are interested in getting out on the water and empowering themselves with the strength and fortitude known only by a select few, such as our military personnel.  While these heroes may have their own respective limitations, it does not in any way reflect upon their inner strength to conquer the challenges they face on a daily basis.  I find no greater joy than seeing a wounded warrior overcome their initial trepidation upon first entry into the kayak and the accompanying sense of instability as they paddle away from the launch.  Those challenges and inner doubts are quickly overcome, and you find yourself put at ease as you see the calmness and inner strength shine through on their respective countenances as they paddle away with a new found confidence and determination.
The warmth and gratitude I feel each time I head out on the water with these heroes is unfortunately interrupted by the bellowing sound of the air horn that penetrates the air and sometimes the stiff winds signifying an end to my time on the water with the heroes.  Each time I volunteer at these events, I sorely long for the day to last just a little bit longer thus permitting more time on the water with my new found friend.  Alas, it is not to be this day.  We make our way back to the launch, where I assist my hero out of the water and thank him for the time spent together.  The sadness is further deepened for me personally, because my son was not able to participate at this event due to a previously scheduled commitment.  In the past, he has accompanied me to all of the events, and the hero I was paired with has come to expect my son to be there.  He too was noticeably saddened as well.  I promised him that I would have him at the next event, but my hero simply smiled and handed me a candy bar to pass on to my son until the next time they could be together.  Words cannot express the gratitude I felt from the simplicity of the gift and the graciousness this hero freely offered for my son whom he had only met a few times at previous events in 2011.

After returning to the launch, we all gathered for a quick box lunch provided by one of the local businesses and some more socialization and reflection upon the outing on the water we had all shared in.  Some of the heroes spoke of "the one that got away", while others reflected upon how much enjoyment they had.  The hero paired with me told me numerous times on the water how much of a relief it was just to get out and do something versus sitting in the same room each day.  Sometimes I think the monotony of these heroes' daily lives is a contributing symptom of their daily challenges.  Hopefully, the bi-weekly HOW events with the Central VA HOW Chapter will help fight off those maladies.

As the heroes were loaded into their vehicle, I found myself longing for the next outing and already mentally checking my calendar to see if my son would be free.  I hope he is, because days like this are ones that I hope he will be able to hold onto as he ages and matures.  These are the days that will mold and shape the child that will one day grow into a man.  Upon that day, he too will realize that it is truly an honor just to be in the company of heroes.


  1. What a great time and nice summary. It truly was a weekend of a lot of fun.

  2. Great write up, Chuck. Well done.

  3. I was bummed to have missed out this year, but hope to get a chance to join the fun next year. HOW is a fantastic cause and your write-up couldn't be more spot-on. Tight lines!

  4. Good read, Chuck. Congratulations on the win.

  5. Thanks - when I was trying to respond to the comments via smart phone, the remove comment and reply to comment options were stacked and I hit the wrong one - sorry Rob my bad.

    Thanks everyone - it was truly a big surprise but it pales in comparison to the primary purpose of the day.

  6. Sir,

    If possible could you contact me via email at We have a volunteer group for VETS here in my hometown and are trying to get an event kinda like this going and I could sure use some assistance I am a VET as well and acting president of our group. Look forward to hearing from you.

    1. I sent you a note a few weeks ago but haven't heard back from you. Drop me a line if you need any more information.