It was a day that made even the wildlife take cover. You would think that Paddle For Heroes and their supporters would have as well. However, this is just the type of Paddle that the organization looks forward to every year. A day of honor. A day to remember each and every Veteran, their sacrifices, their families, as well as a day to consider ways of connecting them with the healing balm of nature.
The event brought out 11 Paddlers; which included 4 Veterans, and 1 First Responder. The six watercraft were outfitted and lined up on the Jaycee Riverside Park Boat Ramp in Zanesville, Ohio. The paddlers were bundled up and anxious to get on the water. Once they were briefed on safety and the itinerary of the day, they quietly slipped into the river.
The group paddled through the foggy mist and intensifying rain for what seemed like hours. Imagine their relief when they saw the dock come into view at Terry's Tavern. Once everyone arrived, they made their way up the stairs to the warm welcome that was waiting. Here they were treated to a delicious hot lunch made and paid for by the wonderful staff at Terry's, and the drink tab was picked up and provided for by the Veteran's Appreciation Foundation. You could see the appreciation and thankfulness from each paddler. The kindness of the staff and the care of the foundation re-fueled the spirit, as well as the body.
Once again it was time to slip back into the water. As the group paddled, they progressively became more reflective to the many sacrifices that our Veteran's have made. The river current helped to carry them to their next stop at Zane Landing Park. The group once again unfolded themselves from their watercraft and met at the Eternal Flame Monument for a "moment" of silence, reflection, and intimate conversations involving memories of personal experience or that of another.
The Paddle for Heroes family returned to their watercraft and headed towards Zanesville Lock #10. The paddlers continued to battle cutting wind, rain, fog, and cold temperatures as they made their way to the lock. It was a welcome surprise to see Dallas, their lock tender for the day patiently waiting for them in the rain. The Muskingum River Parkway State Park was gracious in providing the group passage through Zanesville's beautiful and only double lock on the Muskingum River.
Once the water level was lowered and the doors opened, the paddlers continued onward to their final destination and take out point at Putnam Landing Park. The paddle although challenging in many ways seemed to enliven the group, and the camaraderie was unmistakable. Not one seemed to be in a hurry to leave, as it often is with this group. Yet each knows that they will meet again at the next event, striving to bring awareness to the healing properties of nature, and to the beauty and solace paddling can provide.
If you would like to know how you can become involved with Paddle For Heroes, please contact them today at https://www.paddleforheroesmidwest.org/get-involved