Hoosier Heroes: Helping our heroes on the water

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A special program is helping our Hoosier Heroes overcome their struggles with anxiety and PTSD.

It’s called ‘Heroes on the Water’ and it was all started by veteran Chris Thomas, who founded the group’s Indiana chapter.

“It was just something I knew I needed to do,” said Thomas. “I love doing this, this makes my day to bring these guys out here.”

“This is a great way to get them out in the community,” said Brittany Mendenhall, a recreational therapist with the Roudebush VA Medical Center. “A lot of veterans come back and have issues with anxiety, depression, and sometimes even substance abuse.”

But now they’re getting a fresh start.

“Being here definitely helps a lot,” said veteran David Naessens. “I have severe anxiety and being out here on the water, not having any distractions, I can just get out in the middle of the water and just float if I want to.”

Chris Anderson agrees. He served in the Army from 2004-2008, and also did a tour in Iraq.

“It’s just a whole different lifestyle to learn to get back into civilization and learn to get back on track,” said Anderson. “You just get your mind off everything for a little while you get back you just feel better about yourself.”

“It’s good to be able to talk to somebody that knows where you’re coming from,” said Thomas.

“I think the big struggle mainly was trying to reconnect with people who didn’t quite understand the things that I’ve seen and things that I’ve done… They couldn’t really relate,” said Naessens. “The big problem I had was being a shut-in and this gets me out to enjoy nature and be able to do things.”

“While it is helping you get better, you don’t feel like you’re in a hospital or in a therapy session,” said Mendenhall.

As for their plans for the future?

“I actually have a baby on the way so I’m looking forward to that,” said Anderson.

“I want to get into the IT field, eventually into a field where I can help other people” said Naessens.

“I’d be out here every day of the year if I could,” said Thomas.

His group still needs more volunteers and donors, specifically those who could donate the use of a kayak the group’s monthly functions. You can read more about the organization on their web site and Facebook page.