As the longest war in U.S. history lingers on, veterans often return home to face a different type of battle. Many find compassion, challenge, camaraderie and a future in an unexpected place: on the water.

Over the last year and a half, C&K has crisscrossed the country connecting with the men and women, young and old, whose act of service for their country left them with less obvious and visible scars, and who have been transformed by the simple act of paddling. From wild desert rivers in the West to low-country marshes of Tybee Island. From the calm waters of the Shenandoah River to the raging waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest, we’ve gotten the chance to humbly hear their stories, and we’ve learned about their struggles to reintegrate into a disorienting, hyper-connected society.

The journey has taught us that the long tail of mental trauma sustained from, or multiplied by, military service is more complex than we know; and, that it is more worthy of our attention than ever as our post-9/11 ventures in the Middle East have seemingly no end in sight. Most importantly, it has taught us how paddling works for them, because they are us. This is the start of our salute to those who have found healing waters.

Stay tuned for the full story in C&K‘s Winter Issue, available on newsstand Nov. 25, as we continue to roll out expanded interviews from our ongoing series of veteran-paddler profiles.

Producer – Dave Shively Canoe & Kayak
Director/Director of Photography – Garrett Combs
Editor – Sarah Bourscheid
Stills/Drone – Aaron Black-Schmidt

Special Thanks: OARS, Sierra Club Military Outdoors, NRS, Seth Cantley – Liollio Architecture, Josh Hall – Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission, Sea Kayak Georgia, Shenandoah River Outfitters, Paddle for Peace.

Know a veteran who has made a difference in the paddling community? Email letters@canoekayak.com