Picture a U.S. Veteran isolated in his home; suffering from PTSD; struggling to get out his front door; unsure of himself and others; knowing what he is capable of and afraid that he may lose control, so he stays home, alone, lonely, isolated, and sometimes teetering on a desire to live…or not.

Now, imagine that same Veteran pushing himself out his front door; reaching out to others with trepidation; being invited to go fishing or just for a relaxing boat ride with local community members donating their time and vessels.

Shy, quiet, even awkwardly admitting fear, the strong, brave Veteran pushes himself onward and climbs aboard the boat. The boat leaves the dock, cruises the waterway – some stop and fish, while others may just enjoy the scenery, allowing the therapeutic mystery of the water and air to wash away their worries/challenges.

Minutes pass and the interaction between the Veterans and their hosts (boat owners, Freedom Waters Foundation volunteers) ease into getting to know each other. As the hour passes and the water and fresh air washes away what may be weighing on an individual, smiles and laughter begin to replace any of the original feelings of the day.

Three hours later, loud, boisterous voices can be heard as the boat returns to the marina. The Veteran looks lighter, standing a bit taller, and wearing content and bright grin across his face.

Freedom Waters Foundation, a local non-profit organization is serving local Veterans, by making these boat trips available in partnership with numerous local private and commercial boat owners. Freedom Waters Foundation’s mission is; Enhancing lives by providing boating opportunities and marine related activities for people with disabilities, life threatening illnesses, youth at risk and others with special needs.

Incorporated in March 2006, FWF has been making smiles and memories for many on both coasts of South Florida.

In November 2012, Freedom Waters Foundation hosted their inaugural FWF Veterans Program Meet and Greet aboard the Naples Princess. Over 101 individuals, including Veterans and their families, Mayor John Sorey, Gregory Garcia of the Museum of Military Memorabilia, and FWF Board and volunteers were on board with Naples Princess owners and hosts, Noel and Carol Jordan who donated the use of the vessel and
her crew for this grand celebration of our Veterans.

Like all FWF boat outings, there was some awkwardness among all as they boarded, but also like all Freedom Waters Foundation outings, by then end of the one and half hour cruise, everyone was relaxed, enjoying the boat, the water, and each other!