War veterans say kayaking helps them cope with combat trauma - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

War veterans say kayaking helps them cope with combat trauma

HACKBERRY, LA (KPLC) -

Some war veterans have found effective ways to help cope with trauma they've brought home from combat.

It was a beautiful day in the marshes of Hackberry, far from the stresses of life. These kayakers are combat veterans learning to escape the demons they brought back from the battlefield. 

Josh Droddy and he and his service dog, Grunt, are always together.
"He's been my little buddy. He's three years old. He goes everywhere I do," he said. 

Droddy has severe PTSD and has struggled with illegal drug use but said now he's addicted to the outdoors —sunrises and sunsets.

"I came out here fishing with these people last year. I was hooked on meth and other drugs really bad a few years ago when I first got  back from Iraq and tried committing suicide several times, I moved back to Louisiana, the outdoors programs and I got back into outdoors and fishing and it really saved my life," he said.

The veterans who have been involved with Heroes on the Water for a while have learned that being out there in a kayak and fishing is a kind of therapy you can't get in somebody's office or in the hospital. 

Ken Gibson served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and suffers from physical injuries.

"My back. We had an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) go off underneath me. It broke a bunch of bones, my vertebrae spine and stuff. (It) messed up my legs pretty good," he said.

Gibson said it helps to think about other things. 

"It definitely helps you mentally getting a lot of stuff that stays on your mind all the time. It helps you focus on something else," he said.

This was his first time kayaking and Gibson said it won't be his last.

"It was amazing, I was thoroughly surprised. I thought it was going to hurt more doing it. I definitely want to do this again in the future," he said.

Droddy is the coordinator for the new Southwest Louisiana chapter of Heroes on the Water. A major goal of Heroes on the Water is to reduce the alarming  numbers of veterans who commit suicide.

"21 soldiers a day is way too many and if we can stop at least one number, that's great," Droddy said.

More than anything Droddy said the organization's message is that those who suffer are not alone and no matter what, there's always hope. 

This is the big weekend for the Southwest Louisiana chapter  — it will hold its kick-off event Saturday and Sunday at Bell's Hunting Lodge in Hackberry.

For more information, click HERE. To visit the organization's Facebook Page, click HERE

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