In honor of Memorial Day, we’re paying our respects to those who died in military service with a nod to the paddlers helping those who survived. One of the highlights from the 2014 Canoe & Kayak Awards was Team River Runner’s acceptance of the Paddle with Purpose award, and presenter Cody Howard’s presentation of the philanthropic award with an impassioned reminder that in life, as on the water, “the forward stroke is your best brace in times of trouble.” Here’s the full speech from Howard, a decorated former Marine and veteran of numerous noteworthy kayak expeditions, plus the video of it delivered to the silent crowd in Salt Lake City.

“It’s been said that nature rewards courage, and I couldn’t agree with that statement more. After my time spent in the Marine Corps and in combat overseas, the adrenaline, the danger, and the camaraderie I experienced on river expeditions helped me with a seamless transition into the civilian world. This is what the river and nature rewarded me with. What I found out in Class V kayaking is that things can go bad pretty quickly, just like in combat. But what you learn in kayaking is that the forward stroke is your best brace in times of trouble. And in times of trouble, the hardest thing to do is to charge forward. Such as in life, sometimes taking that forward stroke may require some assistance. So tonight we recognize and award these amazing organizations that give back and help others take that courageous forward stroke on the river and downstream to a positive and active life.”

Find out more on Team River Runner, an all-volunteer organization run by a council of kayakers and overseen by a board of directors, working in partnership with The Wounded Warrior Project and Disabled Sports USA.

— Nominations are now open for the 2015 Canoe & Kayak Awards! Make your voice heard and enter your nominees for the paddlers, expeditions and causes that inspired you to seek out your own paddling adventures an who you think deserve to be on the ballot. Submit entires early and often, now through May 30, 2015.