About Us

The History

             In 2015, four military Veterans decided to take a trip to Ontario, Canada to experience first-hand the opportunity to catch record breaking fish. The excitement of the trip had been building up for months, however for one Veteran, as the date slowly crept up to leave, it started to become a struggle with the thought of leaving his family again and going to another country with minimal communication. This would have been the first time he left his family since his return from Iraq in 2009 and into another country without really knowing what to expect. With the encouragement from his family to take part in this trip, they escorted him to the pick-up area to ensure he got in the truck with the other three Veterans to head to Canada.

During the road trip, the other three Veterans knew that this was more than just a fishing trip, it was a chance to reconnect with a brother who needed a little extra love and support. Throughout the week, it was evident that this particular Veteran was able to sleep and eat better, and his overall mood improved daily. The opportunity to learn how to fish again and with fellow Veterans teaching him, proved to be the therapy he needed. This experience also allowed him to feel confident in himself and begin to talk about his combat experiences, something he had never done before. After the week was over and everyone returned home, they vowed to do this again, but with the intentions of bringing more deserving Veterans who could use this opportunity to engage in activity where no one would be judged or ridiculed for what they had done or experienced.

In 2016, with the help from an Illinois based Veteran Organization and a private donation from a Wisconsin business owner, ten Veterans and three volunteers returned to Happy Camp Lodge in Ontario, Canada to see if similar results could be achieved for five very special Veterans. These Veterans’ service ranged from the Vietnam War to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. A very diverse background of era service members, but with two things in common, they all had seen combat and all raised their right hand and swore to defend this great nation. The results during this trip were five times greater than the year before, simply because all five men embraced the opportunity to learn from one another and for the first time believed that someone cared about them. Over the course of the week, these men were able to sleep better than they had in years, they were assigned responsibilities to help their teammates during the trip, and learned skills in fishing, cleaning fish, cooking, cleaning, teamwork, and most importantly, what it is like to be part of a family again. All of the men that participated on this trip still remain in contact today, routinely doing buddy checks for each other and still talking about how this trip changed their lives.

Veterans and Healing Patriots Board Members at Happy Camp, Canada

 

Ironically, from the first trip in 2015, Don Aiken was watching out for Ed Garza as the struggles of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) almost kept him from going to Canada. In 2016, Don and Ed led the charge of returning to Canada with more Veteran guests and volunteers. The results were overwhelmingly positive and the planning to keep this mission going were underway. With the assistance of Veteran volunteers from the 2016 mission, Healing Patriots was created and will not only serve Veterans, but will include First Responders who have also faithfully served our country and community.

“A New Beginning” for Today, Tomorrow, and the Future

       The theme for Healing Patriots “A New Beginning” was coined to indicate that every morning when we get up, it is “A New Beginning”.  As we prepare to tackle the day’s challenges, there will situations that will either affect us positively or negatively. The negative hurdles are the ones we must overcome and as we decide to leap over or go through them, we may fall down.  At that moment, there is a decision to make, will we get up or stay down? When heroes spend time with Healing Patriots, we will make sure you get up, dust yourself off, and keep going. Each brother and sister that participates or volunteers in the fishing expeditions (FishX), ice fishing expeditions (IFishX) or any other event in support of our nation’s heroes, they will become part of an exclusive family that is dedicated to helping our Patriots become successful today, tomorrow, and in the future.  Healing Patriots uses the power of the outdoors and fishing as the tool to relax and refocus on the simple things in life. During the multiple day FishX or IFishX, the goal is to go back to basics in building confidence, refocus on faith, develop team concepts, make new friends, build the camaraderie that was thought to be lost, and learn techniques to fish for multiple species. Fishing provides a great opportunity to get away and become one with nature and its healing powers. Healing Patriots is dedicated to helping our heroes overcome those challenges and develop a plan for “A New Beginning”.  With love, compassion, and the support of our family to our heroes and their families, NO ONE is left behind to struggle or suffer in silence.  We are One Family, One Team!

Breaking Through PTSD

In 2015, four military Veterans decided to take a trip to Ontario, Canada to experience first-hand the opportunity to catch record breaking fish. The excitement of the trip had been building up for months, however for one Veteran, as the date slowly crept up to leave, it started to become a struggle with the thought of leaving his family again and going to another country with minimal communication. This would have been the first time he left his family since his return from Iraq in 2009 and into another country without really knowing what to expect. With the encouragement from his family to take part in this trip, they escorted him to the pick-up area to ensure he got in the truck with the other three Veterans to head to Canada.

The Results

The results during this trip were five times greater than the year before, simply because all five men embraced the opportunity to learn from one another and for the first time believed that someone cared about them. Over the course of the week, these men were able to sleep better than they had in years, they were assigned responsibilities to help their teammates during the trip, and learned skills in fishing, cleaning fish, cooking, cleaning, teamwork, and most importantly, what it is like to be part of a family again. All of the men that participated on this trip still remain in contact today, routinely doing buddy checks for each other and still talking about how this trip changed their lives.