“I know kayak fishing saved my life. I had a world convinced I was ok but my demons won more battles than I did. Kayak fishing gave me something to look forward to: Therapy for myself and group therapy when I fished with friends!” – Jason Austin
Jason Austin, a local Louisianan, has come up with an innovative marketing strategy to increase awareness of the national wounded veterans program Heroes on the Water (HOW), that helps warriors heal through the therapeutic benefits of kayak fishing. Austin has decided to wrap his truck and kayak in a redfish design with the Heroes on the Water logo blown up on the side. He has also add a QR code, which leads to the HOW website for people who want to know more. Austin came up with the idea after having seen how much attention other wrapped vehicles got. He thought, what better way to get the word out!
Austin is a retired Sergeant First Class Military Policeman, and has been a member of HOW since 2010 when he joined the Tampa chapter. He first heard about HOW in 2007 when he was in the hospital after his vehicle struck two IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) in Iraq. Austin suffered severe injuries from the explosion and was in several hospitals, medical hold units, Community Based Health Care Organizations and Warrior Transition Battalions for the next 900+ days. Austin had cervical and lumbar injuries, left frontal and parietal brain injury, hearing and vision loss, and his right leg and abdomen required surgery. After 3 years where he had surgeries, rehabilitation, in patient programs, cognitive therapy and went through a medical board, he was medically retired in 2010.
After having retired, Austin, faced with a life changing event, was physically limited to what he could do and struggled with Post Traumatic Stress and physical pain. He felt lost, out of touch with everything he had ever known and rapidly reaching the end of his rope. That is when he was reunited with the idea of kayak fishing. Austin joined the Tampa HOW chapter and was immediately hooked. He found something he could do that was challenging and therapeutic at the same time: “I believe in HOW and its mission. People don’t always understand the pain involved with returning vets. Just because they look like they are physically ok standing in front of you, you don’t know what scars their clothes cover up or the mental pain they hide behind their eyes. Being on the water is a natural pain killer for us, that’s why I’m involved.”
Austin’s next endeavor is to raise awareness for HOW by paddling 175-200 miles around Lake Ponchatrain. He hopes to share the mission of HOW, while getting people on the water with him as they paddle through different areas around the lake.
Heroes on the Water is very excited about Austin’s initiative and will give away a HOW fishing rod, along with HOW merchandise in a competition surrounding the campaign. Every week starting Saturday August 11, Austin will park his truck in front of a famous landmark and upload a picture of it to the HOW Facebook page. The first person to guess where the truck is parked will win a gift from HOW.
Heroes on the Water is a national organization serving wounded veterans with 35 chapters in 22 states. The mission of HOW is to help wounded warriors relax, rehabilitate, and reintegrate into society through kayak fishing and the outdoors. In 5 years, Heroes on the Water has helped over 4,100 veterans and has a current team of 350+ volunteers. For more information on HOW, log onto www.HeroesonTheWater.org.