Battle Creek VA Recreational Therapy partnered with two local nonprofit organizations to introduce paddle boarding to Veterans in August. There is a powerful combination of social interaction, connection, and the healing impact of activities on the water.

Water activities may not be for everyone, but for some Veterans it can be a lifesaver. The power of Veteran sports and Recreation Therapy was on full display at Long Lake in Portage, Michigan.

Two paddle board instructors on a beach

“A good way to bring Veterans together.”

Recreation Therapy staff transported Veterans to Ramona Park, where 4THE22 hosted a cookout and beach games. Then it was time to hit the water. “Before you knew it, all of the Veterans were up and paddling,” said Navy Veteran Josh Flath, of 4THE22. “There were a few falls but the Veterans overcame and enjoyed the introduction to paddling.”

4THE22 provided the on-the-ground safety briefs, all the equipment, and instructions on paddleboarding during the event. With their motto “Bringing Balance to Veterans’ Lives,” they strive to help others to find balance and purpose through the therapeutic activities of standup paddling, surfing and exercise.

Paddleboarding can help reduce stress and anxiety

“Paddling has helped me a lot,” continued Flath. “I am so glad to share this sport with other Veterans.”

Warriors to Waves also provided instructors and assisted with the event. Often focused on more high-adrenaline water therapy, they planned to launch electronic foil boards, but had to cancel due to high winds on the lake. Warriors to Waves instructors helped Veteran novices get started with gliding on the water and seeking to overcome the challenge of learning.

“Water therapy instills the warrior ethos,” said Marine Corps Veteran Mathew MacLeod, of Warriors to Waves. “Aquatic therapy takes the stress off muscles and bones using the buoyancy of water. Being in the water helps reduce stress and anxiety as well. It is really a good way to bring Veterans together.”

It is important to have social and recreational activities for Veterans in the communities in which they live. Collaboration with organizations in the community like these is crucial to helping Veterans learn positive activities that build camaraderie. It’s a moving experience to see the healing impact of water in action.

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement or recommendation by VA.

By Brian Pegouske

Communication chief, Battle Creek VA

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Published on Sep. 18, 2022

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