Friday, April 20, 2012

Venue Recon

I recently had an opportunity to recon a potential location for one of the Hereoes on the Water Tidewater Chapter events.  Retired Captain Fred Olds suggested a trip up to Cheatham Annex near Yorktown, Va to look at a place that he was very familiar with.  His descriptions of the area made me want to check it out, and believe me he was spot on.  Beautiful trees lined the banks of the two bass filled lakes.  Across the road from Lake Cheatham was Queen’s Creek near the point where it met the York River.

This place is absolutely beautiful!  So serene, the surroundings are like a story book.  Fresh air, chirping songbirds and squawking  waterfowl, and the splash of top feeding bass make you feel as if you are in a far away paradise.  Occasionally, you will see and hear a boat heading along Queen’s Creek, but otherwise the air is quiet and peaceful with an occasional breeze blowing through the trees.  The perfect place to relax and enjoy a day on the water.

I knew that photos might only be able to capture a glimpse of the beauty and not the serenity of this place.  I hope this short video might give a sense of the surroundings and what it might feel like to spend a night in one of the cabin onsite.

My day with Captain Olds was time well spent on so many different levels.  Seeing Cheatham Annex was only the start.  I had the privilege to spend the day with someone whose history on the U.S. Navy reads like a best seller.  I was honored to spend the day with him, and I can tell you that he is someone that served our nation with distinction.  He shared with me stories of his experiences as a Navy Captain and Commodore as well as those after his retirement.  I was taken away by his accounts  of navigational chess matches with the Soviet Navy, his time in Viet Nam, his training roles in both Quantico and teaching navigational skills to some of our natio’s finest warriors, and of being awarded the Bronze Star.  I cannot express how interesting his stories were to hear and how honored I was to be in his company.

Our day continued after I stated to him that you can live somewhere most of your life and still only see a small part of it.  He asked if I had ever visited the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Va.  It was located along our path back home, so we briefly stopped I to take a break.  After quickly gaining permission for entry, he showed me a few of the highlights and told me of many more that I should see if I come back.  I could see his pride on his face as he pointed out naval artifacts, and I could see that this was a place that was very special to him.

Robin Olds

As if my day wasn’t already complete, my new friend also told me stories of his brother.  Both Fred and his brother Robin made considerable contributions while serving our nation.  Take time to read about Brig, Gen. Robin Olds .  I was lucky enough to hear several storiesabout this great American aviator.  Fred even had numerous copies of drawings and cartoons that his brother had made to pass the time and to document snippets of history.  The quality of these drawings and the stories behind them were wonderful.

Our conversations revealed that Captain Olds and his family actually lived only 4-5 houses down the street from me many years ago.  It’s funny that I actually remember back when I was about the age of nine, the Olds’ family with their very young children.  Honestly, I had wondered through the years what had come of them.  Funny how small the world is and that our paths would cross again.

My day concluded with saying a fond goodbye to someone that I thoroughly enjoyed spending the day with.  I honestly cannot wait until another opportunity presents itself to do it again.  It is moments like these that Heroes on the Water has given me.  The veterans that we serve, the volunteers, and donors that we meet each day bring something special to our encounters.  We all have our stories to share, but it’s the stories that make us stop…and reflect…and appreciate each other.  What might seem, at first, as a simple drive to an unfamiliar location just might bring you to a place where you can escape your surroundings and give you a sense of what else is out there. 

Today was a good day.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Trailer Donation

Special thanks to Gary Sponholz for his donation of a trailer. We'll be sure to put it to good use after we make her look nice and spiffy!

We did take her over and made sure that no modifications are required to carry our Redfish 12's. Plenty of storage is going to make this trailer something special. A nice coat of fresh paint and some HOW insignia, and she will turn some heads as she rolls down the road!

A big thanks also to William (Bill) Whitley who was instrumental in lining up this much appreciated donation.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Another perspective of the TKAA Tourney (revisited)

Many of you already know Rob Choi very well and are fully aware of the many talents that he has.  Rob is an amazing angler and takes his time to do his homework.  Some might say that his approach is almost artistic in that he is very detail oriented in his targeting of a species or of a certain fishing technique.  He is not only an artist in regards to his angling, but also in many different mediums represented in his drawings, paintings, Gyotaku, and in his printed word.  At times, I have actually wondered if he might be able to also carry a tune, but I figured that if he could we would have heard him by now.  Artistic talent is only one side to Rob and upon meeting him you immediately realize what a genuinely nice guy he is.

Take the time to keep track of this guy.  As an avid competitor he is always at the top of the heap in any tournament that he enters both locally and at the national level.  His continual top placement  in tournaments and giving back to the sport through seminars and overall support of the kayak fishing community has put him at the top of anyone’s short list for sponsorship.  Rob is on the Pro Staff with YakAngler, a Team Member with Werner Paddles, a Hook1 Crew Member, and has most recently joined the Pro Staff at YakAttack as well.  Both Tidewater Kayak Anglers Association (TKAA) and Pirates of the Lynnhaven (POL) are proud to have him as a member.  Heroes on the Water Tidewater Chapter are very happy to have him as a volunteer.

You can follow Rob’s latest fishing experiences by following his blog Angling Addict and be sure to check out his videos on You Tube as well.

We are honored to have Rob Choi as today’s guest blogger.  This is a repost of his experience as a HOW volunteer during the 2011 TKAA Kayak Fish For Charity Tournament.  The day was rainy and cool, but because of volunteers like Rob, the weather was only a nuisance and didn’t dampen the spirit of the veterans that they accompanied on the water.  

Rob's original post...

It had been raining on and off all day.  My hands were exceedingly pruney, my hat was soaked all the way through and I was yet to feel a fish on the end of my line.  Other tournament anglers started heading in and many of them asked about my luck.  Every one of them had either a perplexed look or thought I was joking when I told them I hadn't hooked a single one.  I was running out of time so I decided to make one more pass by my favorite spot in the inlet as the rain got heavier. I was trolling a MirrOLure when it got crushed...

 by a big...


 Yet, for some reason, I was still smiling, happy and had a supreme sense of satisfaction as I drove to the weigh-in/awards ceremony.  The confused looks and "you're kidding, right" statements continued there, but I went on to explain to them that I had a different goal that day.

 Every year there's a group of people that take some veterans from the near by hospitals and gets them out on the water to fish during the tournament.  I decided to be a part of that group.  At the end of the day, Ben Swenson of Virginia Wildlife Magazine wanted a quick interview, so I obliged, and most of the questions were easy... was this your first time volunteering for this... yes... do you think you'll do it again... yes... but there was one question that I couldn't answer very quickly.  "Why?"  "What made you decide to do this?".  My mind was running so fast...  I'm usually a very competitive person and I love these types of events... so why did I decide to forego the enjoyment of competing?  Why would I use that precious time away from my family and personal fishing endeavors for something like this?  I don't have any strong connections to the military.  I dislike politics.  I just didn't have an immediate answer for him.

 Maybe I just wanted something cool to write about on my blog.  Maybe I thought it would make me look like a "good guy" in the kayak fishing community.  Or maybe it was the perfect opportunity for me to really help someone by sharing the passion I have for this sport.  And not just anyone, but someone who has put his country before himself...  someone who did what our country as a whole needed him to do and now he's stuck in a hospital.  I know if I was in his shoes, I'd love it if someone took me fishing.

 Maybe I volunteered because I've always felt like I owed a debt of gratitude to the veterans of this country.  I was born here, grew up here, and enjoyed the freedom my entire life.  My parents came here from South Korea back in the mid 70's, not only because this country opened its doors to a certain number of immigrants from there, but also because of the veterans who fought the Korean war.  The outcome of that war would obviously be very different if it hadn't been for those veterans and I would not be here today loving life to the fullest, and you would not be reading this.

 Maybe I didn't have an answer for Ben Swenson because I didn't know how to bring up the subject of my wife's beloved grandfather, who recently passed away last month.  He served in the United States Army and was awarded a Combat Infantry Badge and three bronze stars for his service in Korea.  You can imagine the sense of gratitude I have, especially when I was around him.  Here I am, in the greatest country in the world, enjoying all the freedoms that come with it because of the service and sacrifices made by him and the other veterans of the Korean War.  And to top it off, I got to marry his granddaughter.  I made sure he knew that she was in good hands with me, and he was many times the recipient of a fillet or two from my outings along with the treasured visits from his great grandkids.

 I know this would have made him happy and proud.

Mark Lozier gives a few pointers to the veterans
I took Lance Corporal Israel Ramirez out to Rudee Inlet in my Redfish 12.  He had been to many places including Greece and Lybia and now had several pins in his right hand along with a cast.  Knowing that I shouldn't push him, we started off pretty relaxed.  I just wanted him to have a good time on the water.  But after chatting and getting to know him, I realized he was pretty mission driven and today's mission was to catch a fish.  It's something he had never done before and it was my goal to help him achieve that.  His casting got better as the day progressed and his paddle strokes got stronger.  He couldn't quite grip the paddle all the way and I told him to let me know if his hand was bothering him and that we could take a break.  But like a true marine, he told me "pain is weakness leaving the body" and trucked on as I nodded and smiled.  Shortly there after, I got him to hook up and I was ecstatic when he caught his first fish ever.

He caught 2 more spot (bigger than the first) and a nice pinfish as well.  When we got off the water for lunch it was obvious the vets were all glad to have gotten a little therapy on the water and it did them good.  They had so much to talk about and at least for a short while, their minds were away from the heavy burdens they accumulated through their previous experiences and long stays in the hospital. Later on, Israel came up and told me that his buddies from the same hospital couldn't believe he caught 4 fish.  The others enjoyed themselves on the water, but were not able to catch anything.  That added a certain level of satisfaction for me, knowing I helped him get those bragging rights!
There's definitely something magical about powering yourself though the water.  Add the lure of angling and the therapy is undeniable.  For more information about the program helping the vets, check out the Heroes on the Water page and Project Healing Waters page.

 All the proceeds from the tournament went towards those programs so even those that didn't fish with a veteran still helped out.  They are two great organizations that definitely deserve our support.  If you live in the mid-Atlantic, enjoy kayak fishing, and have not attended this event before, please consider trying next year.  The camaraderie is second to none and the raffle is out of this world.  Here's a link to some more info about the tournament and the results.

 On a side note, after the weigh-in and award ceremony, I ventured back out to the HRBT for a few more hours of personal fishing time.  I quickly picked up a 19" flounder, 5 schoolie stripers and a few good size croaker.

Friday, February 17, 2012

My Experience

Today's entry does not include any pictures of trophy fish, colorful and fully rigged kayaks, or scenic panoramas, but what it does have are the words of a good friend to not only me but also Heroes On The Water.

When we first asked William Ragulsky if he would write something for this blog, we explained that what he wrote was of his choosing as long as it related to HOW and the veterans that we serve.  We think that his words tell an interesting story starting as a young child, through serving in the Marine Corps, to today.

Each of us have a story to tell, and William’s story is one that we didn’t realize in its entirety. We are happy that he chose to share it with us and to not only highlight the potential of what all of the volunteers of Heroes on the Water try to bring to those that have served our country, but the benefits of getting outdoors and enjoying life.

William is the 2012 president of Tidewater Kayak Anglers Association, on the Pro Staff of Hurricane Kayaks, and a volunteer with the Tidewater Chapter of Heroes on the Water.   He is an accomplished fisherman either on his kayak or wading and slinging bugs with his fly rod. You can follow the accounts of his fishing at Coastal Kayak Fishing.  Originally from Colorado, William now resides in the Tidewater area of Virginia and can be found in his kayak fishing both salt and fresh waters along the east coast.

William's story...

History of one volunteer
I have been in the outdoors since before I could remember.  Many of the values I have today came from fishing and hunting with my family.  My passion for the water came when my dad brought home our first canoe.  From there, I learned that a kayak would not only get me on the water, but it would also allow me to fish the way I wanted to fish.  It gave me a sense of freedom!  Besides the outdoors, my family lineage is steeped in military and public service.  From an early age, I was sure that I would become a cop, and avoid the military.  For me though, the opposite became true when I enlisted in the Marine Corps.  The Corps provided me with a number of different opportunities that I most likely would not have had staying at home, or going off to university.  The most valuable things I took were certain intangibles that I needed at my age.  Honor, Courage, Commitment quickly became my core values, as well as a feeling of pride, self-respect, and structure that I desperately needed.  From my experience, I traveled the globe, and have many experiences that will always be truly unique to me.  Unfortunately one of the most common experiences I shared came from a combat tour in the wild western providence of Al Anbar in Iraq.  From there, my values and beliefs were tested on a daily basis.  From IED’s and Mines, poverty and sadness of the people I believed I was there to help, death of brothers in arms, and having to choose your life or the life of another human being, the person who I am today was tested and formed by that time in my life.  When I came back, I was lucky enough to have a family structure that I previously described.  Far from military installations, I had to fight through the pain with only the support of others and the great outdoors.  Thankfully for me, that was what worked.

Present day
I have been lucky enough to hold a staff position at a military medical treatment facility where I have been able to get back into the sport that I love, and share that with others.  I also see and speak to my fellow Marines, unfortunately they are in my environment, not the environment that is native to a U.S. Marine.  Knowing both sides of the fence, as well as having a passion for kayak angling, I decided to get involve with HOW a few years ago.  At first, it was support on the shore, running to grab lunch for the group, rigging rods, and helping guys launch and recover.  The thought of not fishing did not run through my mind once that day.  My whole focus was on providing support to my brothers and seeing the enjoyment and relaxation resonate throughout their torn bodies and minds. 

My next trip was as an on the water volunteer.  This experience was just as rewarding as the first.  I was able to share my passion, but unable to get the overall view that I previously had.  We had a great day and even hooked up on some specks and reds!  The progression continued, where I have been able to speak to the same men that we have got on the water, off the water back at the hospital.  On the smoke deck, I would normally hear how unhappy they are being at the hospital but the mood has changed.  Now it goes to kayaking, fishing, and the outdoors.  Their moods brighten and even if for a brief minute, their minds are back on the water.  Smoking and joking with the Marines reminds me of the time I spent in, and how my family helped me recover. 
Now, I get the most enjoyment seeing them in the same state as they were prior to their injury or illness.  Even if it for a day, it is a start to the rehabilitation and recovery they most definitely deserve.  When working in conjunction with proper medical and mental health care, HOW can make a lasting difference in the lives of everyone involved.

To bring it all full circle, my history is important in this context because many of the veterans and active duty service members that your time goes to come from similar backgrounds.  They may have experienced things that you would never hope to see, and do things that question who they are in order to keep you and me safe.  These are the men and women that allow me to sleep at night, launch my kayak when they are serving our country at home or abroad, or even worse, lying in a hospital bed.  If you feel like giving something back to these fine citizens, then contact your local HOW Chapter or go to to find out other ways to help.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Fishing With Heroes (revisited)

As the inaugural guest entry, we thought it would be fitting to re-post a blog account of a Heroes On The Water event that was originally posted by Cory Routh.  Cory has had, and continues to have, a tremendous impact on the sport of kayak fishing.  As a founding member of the Tidewater Kayak Anglers Association, he was instrumental with starting the TKAA Kayak Fish For Charity Tournament, which currently is in its 8th year, and he also started the Tidewater Chapter of Heroes On The Water which has grown in size and scope every year.  He is an accomplished outdoorsman, fishing guide, kayak fisherman, fly fisherman, conversationalist, author, photographer, and a true icon in the kayak fishing world.  Take note of his first picture in his account of the day and you will notice his attention to detail in the set up of the kayaks that awaited the marines that he and the chapter volunteers took out for the day.  This was not a posed or set up picture, every outing that Cory led and continues to be a part of reflects his respect for the men and women that have given so much.

We invite all of you to follow Ruthless Fishing Blog , purchase and read Cory's book Kayak Fishing The Complete Guide, check out his guide service , and be sure to say hello when you see him at numerous fishing industries shows and on the water.  Thanks Cory for allowing us to take a peek back at September 2011.

Cory's original post...

I had the honor of kayak fishing with 18 warriors from Project Healing Waters and the Marine Wounded Warrior Regiment. This trip was organized as part of the 6th Annual TKAA Charity Kayak Fishing Tournament. Each year the Heroes On the Water or HOW, organizes volunteers and equipment to take these deserving individuals out for a day of kayak fishing.

We had both fly and conventional anglers and every one took to kayak fishing like it was second nature. For the rest of the day we were all kayak anglers.
Some took to the open water solo, while others found a spot with their brothers and enjoyed the day. These Marines found the hot spot of the day.
This particular Marine caught his first kayak fish today, and others even caught their first fish ever..on the kayak. I believe they might be hooked.
I take pride in being able to "give back" to these deserving individuals by sharing my passion. In one way or another I believe we are doing in a day, what it takes the government much longer to do. HOW continues to grow and chapters are organizing nationwide. If you want to volunteer or contribute to the Heroes on the Water, please check out their website at
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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Getting The Ball Rolling

Tidewater Chapter

Many of you have suggested that we start a blog in order to further spread the word about Heroes on the Water and the the Tidewater Chapter.  Our first inclination was that there just aren't enough hours in a day to maintain a blog and tend to the many facets of our lives; family and friends, work, household chores, the many different aspects of maintaining the chapter, and of course a little bit of life's fun mixed in too.  After a bit of deliberation and realizing that we may be able to use the many resources out there (YOU FOLKS), we are decided to draw together not only our perspective on the Tidewater Chapter, but also the viewpoints of our readers.

You folks are not only avid fishermen and women, but also experienced kayakers, current and former members of the military, HOW volunteers, and you maintain sites of your own where you share your thoughts. So with that in mind, we are launching this blog, with the intent to not only try and spread the word of Heroes on the Water ourselves, but also to allow you to do the same through your words and pictures and your unique perspectives.  From time to time we will be asking some of you to submit your creative works to us for posting here to further highlight the work of Heroes on the Water, and the journey of those we serve.

Keep in mind this is an experiment, but one that we are looking forward to.
There's a lot of work to do.  Let's get the ball rolling!