Heroes take to the water

This time last year, Baldwin EMC Energy Marketing Specialist and U.S. Air Force veteran Brad Taylor was looking for a way to donate his time locally to help other military veterans, when a co-worker told Taylor about Heroes on the Water (HOW). A national organization with a mission “to help warriors relax, rehabilitate and reintegrate through kayak fishing and the outdoors,” Taylor said he knew immediately he wanted to get involved.

“HOW is designed for vets who could be going through some form of mental issue or physical ailment,” Taylor said. “We serve as guides to take them out on the water and fish. It may be the first time they’ve ever fished or even been in a kayak, but there’s a comfort in knowing they’re surrounded by people with similar experiences and who may be dealing with the same issues.”

The South Alabama Chapter of HOW, which hosts kayak fishing events alternately between Mobile and Baldwin County, was launched in 2016 through the efforts of Brian Carson.

“I’m not a veteran, but this is a way for me to give back to the people who have served,” Carson said. “There has been a ton of research done showing the benefits of kayak fishing to reduce stress. Just one trip out fishing can be like hitting the reset button for some of these men and women.”

The South Alabama chapter hosts an average of one event a month, but also offers private events scheduled during the week.

“Sometimes these vets aren’t comfortable participating in a group setting,” Carson said. “A one-on-one environment can be extremely beneficial. As guides, we never ask our vets about their service, but if they want to talk about it, we are there to listen.”

In addition to Taylor, Baldwin EMC Power System Control Coordinator and Army veteran Chad Thomas is heavily involved in HOW, serving as co-chair of the Board and a regular guide.

“Our motto is ‘paddle, heal, fish,’” Thomas said. “I don’t consider myself a hero, I’m just there to take these men and women fishing. I happen to be a veteran myself, but you don’t have to have a military background to volunteer as a guide.”

As for the veteran participants, all they have to provide is a fishing license.

“We take care of everything from the kayaks to the bait,” Thomas said. “We even clean the fish for them.”

“When it comes down to it, veterans have to take care of veterans,” Taylor said. “You can’t just rely on an outside agency. No one really knows what a vet has gone through other than another veteran. It doesn’t matter if they served in the same war or are part of the same branch of service, they understand each other.”

“There is so much we owe our veterans and the one thing I’ve got to offer is fishing,” Carson said. “That, and the therapy that comes with it.”

Heroes on the Water – South Alabama Chapter will hold its first 2018 event in March.

For more information about HOW, including how to get involved as a veteran or as a guide, visit their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/HOWSouthAlabama/) or contact Brian Carson at
(251) 327-8557.

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