Participants fished from kayaks on Tanwax Lake during a 2015 event for military veterans organized by Heroes on the Water. (Courtesy photo)
Participants fished from kayaks on Tanwax Lake during a 2015 event for military veterans organized by Heroes on the Water. (Courtesy photo)
The men who have paddled around Tanwax Lake in search of fish and a better life can tell you that Heroes on the Water is award-worthy.
The national organization's Northwest chapter, based in Tacoma, has held kayak fishing adventures events in south Pierce County as part of its mission of promoting growth, rehabilitation and reconnections of military veterans. And for that and its other efforts, Heroes on Water was among the recipients last month of an Outstanding Service to Veterans award for 2017.
The awards – co-sponsored each year by the Governor's Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee and the state Department of Veterans Affairs – recognize time and energy spent on improving the lives of Washington's veterans.
On an April day in 2015, 40 active-duty or retired military members, Coast Guard veterans were joined by firefighters, police officers on Tanwax Lake. Family members and shore volunteers swelled the turnout to 100-plus people, and by the end of the day, more than 300 fish had been caught or released.
There was more on the line that fish. Such events are therapeutic for veterans. They decompress from the stresses of combat and adapt to new skills required in their rehabilitation from wounds and amputations, according to Heroes on the Water.
"We're working hard to say thank you to those who put their lives at risk for our country," a spokesman for the organization said after the day of fishing and healing.
Camp Lakeview Resort donated the beach site where kayaks were launched, and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife sanctioned the event even though it was held two weeks before the start of the lake fishing season statewide.
Heroes on the Water, as it does in all its activities, provided everything else, including a hot breakfast and lunch, kayaks, fishing gear, life jackets, fishing licenses, basic kayaking lesson and fishing guides at no charge.
The organization is staffed by volunteers and supported through donations and sponsorships. It has chapters in 18 states and international affiliates in England and Australia. Information about it is available at heroesonthewater.org and from the Northwest chapter at www.facebook.com/HeroesOnTheWaterNWest and nwest@heroesonthewater.org.