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.
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.
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 www.Heroesonthewater.org to find out other ways to help.