Veterans find peace on the water

By Heather Leigh, Mobile journalist, hleigh@wjxt.com
Chris Robbins, Evening newscast producer, crobbins@wjxt.com
Published On: Aug 06 2014 10:30:40 AM EDT
Updated On: Jul 14 2014 12:31:59 AM EDT

VIDEO: A group of local veterans hit the river in kayaks with fishing poles to fellowship and forget about their war time experiences. The guided tours are coordinated by Heroes on the water.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Some call fishing and kayaking fun, but for some local veterans it's therapy, a way to get their minds off war injuries and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. 

Heroes on the Water is a Jacksonville-based group that sets them up with fishing rods, a guide and a kayak to decompress from life on the front lines.

It's a about as therapeutic as you can get, setting worries and fears aside and just paddling out into the open water.

"We have veterans ranging from PTSD to spinal cord injuries, brain injuries and it's just the moment they get out on the water and have that serenity -- its just extremely therapeutic for them," said Katie Blunk, with Heroes on the Water.

Former Navy Veteran Tayden Haile said he has been on about nine trips with the group and says they've provided more than just lessons in fishing. he says he didn't know how to fish before...

"It reduces stress, um, it gives me just peace of mind just to get out and commune," said Haile. "It's like fellow shipping with the other guys, a little piece of being in the service."

"Veterans, they get out here and they just get hooked on the kayak fishing," Blunk said. "We've had so many veterans go out and buy their own kayaks just after coming out once with us. They really just enjoy being able to have that freedom beyond the water, be with themselves and just get all the therapeutic intrinsic rewards."

Army veterans like Jim Wilcox said he counts down the days each month to meet with the group. He said it's a chance where he says he can finally forget about the past.

"You try to think of the future, so this is therapy," Wilcox said. "My doctors got me here doing this instead of sticking me into two-and-a-half hour groups."

"War, um, just the stress of the day, um, just so much, we've all be through a lot," Haile said. "And you know, from Iraq to Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom -- It's just a way to unwind and just let all of that go," Haile said.

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