Heroes on the Water: Helping Vets Cope with PTSD

Once Jim Dolan completed his 13-year service to the United States Air Force—after spending eight years overseas in the Philippines and Germany—he returned home to a community of veterans afflicted with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Up until quite recently, P.T.S.D. was by many standards, extremely under-diagnosed, and Jim wanted to do something about that. So he founded Heroes on the Water.


Honoring Vets on Veterans Day

This program, now 79 chapters strong, was designed to help veterans suffering from P.T.S.D. through fishing. Though it seems simple, participants have raved about its therapeutic benefits, its uncanny ability to level the playing field, and simply make wounded vets feel whole again even if just for a brief period of time.

A program study shows an incredible 56% reduction in overall stress, as well as a 62% reduction in hyper vigilance, and an incredible 63% reduction in avoidance behavior. Need further proof? SPC Alyssa claims it saved her life.


H.O.W. in Hoodsport

The Northwest Chapter of Heroes on the Water is all-volunteer run and operates in partnership with The Sunrise Motel & Dive Resort in Hoodsport on the western shore of Hood Canal. Every several months, after meticulous planning, organization, and outreach, Heroes on the Water comes together with local veterans for a day of open-water kayak fishing. Each veteran is outfitted with a kayaking setup, a life jacket, and a fishing rod, and given a thorough safety talk and gear overview before they are free to paddle about the fjord and cast.

With a strong group of volunteers both in the water and as on-shore support, the heroes are able to paddle around Hood Canal, casting lines to their hearts’ content. Once it’s time to head in for the day, the group’s catches are gutted and prepared right on shore, and sometimes paired with crab and oysters if they’re in season.

For these veterans and active-duty soldiers, organizing an event and finding transportation for themselves and their family members is simply out of the question because of time and resource constraints. The Heroes on the Water program takes care of all of the coordination and the cost of this activity that’s not simply designed to alleviate P.T.S.D., but to prevent it or lessen its potential impact. Most volunteers report that the vast majority of participants have already attended an event in the past and express gratitude and eagerness for any and all upcoming H.O.W. activities.

You can help make a difference in a hero’s life by donating to the cause, or getting involved. Sometimes, even the simplest experience can make a great impact.

For more about what Heroes on the Water is doing in our neck of the woods, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Want to get in contact with the excellent people behind the organization? Send an email.