Veterans kayak, build confidence thanks to volunteers and Team RWB

Veterans from the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital Domiciliary enjoy a morning of kayaking and stand up paddle boarding once a month thanks to Team Red, White & Blue and WaterSports West.

The domiciliary provides opportunities for motivated but at-risk Veterans to participate in a residential rehabilitative therapeutic community. The goal is to return each Veteran to independent living, and outings such as these help Veterans feel more comfortable in the community.

“It’s a confidence builder, Veterans get to be part of the community and see that it’s not a crazy world,” said Michael Hernandez, U.S. Marine Corps Veteran and assistant Veteran outreach director at Team RWB in Tampa, Florida.

The Veterans ranged in their comfort levels on the water but volunteers quickly put them at ease by suggesting different types of boards and teaching them how to launch and paddle.


After the first few minutes in the water, worried faces turned to smiles, and then to confidence. Some met up with each other in the water to talk about their experience, but others stayed solo, happy to be doing something on their own.

This event only happens once a month, but Veterans from the domiciliary regularly attend workouts and yoga at Team RWB’s ‘firebase’ gym in Tampa, Florida.

“Team RWB is a good team organization, I can feel the camaraderie like when I was in the military,” said U.S. National Guard Veteran and domiciliary patient Ryan Jones, “every one has your back.”


Tim Hudak

  joined the VA in December 2013 and is on the Veterans Experience Office team. Tim, a Chicago-land native enlisted in the Marine Corps straight out of high school. As an intelligence analyst he deployed to Al Anbar province, Iraq with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363 in 2006 and 2008. After the Marine Corps, Tim used the GI Bill to earn a degree in Intelligence Studies from Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pa., and co-founded the university’s first student Veteran organization. Tim is active in many Veteran organizations.