JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Local veterans spent this holiday weekend kayaking on the St. John's River with the organization "Heroes on the Water," which helps veterans find peace through nature.
"The water is such a healing factor. Just to get out here. It so calming, so relaxing," said Marine Corps veteran Tony Hart.
Tony Hart is using his experience in the Marine Corps to help those affected by combat. Many of the men and women he meets are dealing with physical or emotional injuries.
"A lot of these guys have traumatic brain injuries, TBI, or PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder. A lot of these guys, they'll have anxiety attacks in the morning, they don't like big crowds of people," Hart said.
Hart works with Heroes on the Water, part of a national organization that uses nature to heal veterans. Sunday morning, more than 50 vets set out for a day of fishing and kayaking. Vietnam vet Jim Reid and his wife Laurie said things have really changed since his days in the service.
"When he got out and retired, it was really difficult. He didn't have the support that these guys have now," Laurie Reid said.
The group works with the Wounded Warrior Project and the kayaking trips are open to veterans of all ages. Hart said he mostly works with young men and women recently home from war and coping with trauma.
Hart said it takes time for these veterans to open up but once they do, the enjoyment is visible.
"You can see some of the guys that show up in the morning, they're a little tentative, they're a little shy but at the end of the day, it's just night and day difference the way these guys are. They're just smiling, they're happy, they're talking about what they caught, how much fun they had."
Heroes on the Water tries to schedule one outing during the second week of every month.
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