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Veterans in Kern County find peace on the water with non-profit

Posted at 10:02 AM, Jul 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-07 18:00:14-04

A non-profit organization is using a nature based method to help heroes after they return home from the military.

The Now's Tori Cooper followed Kern County veterans up north, to Kelsey Bass Ranch to find out how these veterans are responding to the Heroes on the Water program.

Kelsey Ranch is over 70 years old and was originally formed to supply irrigation for farming activities but now it is also a home away from home for two days out of the year for many veterans in Kern County.

U.S. Marine Corps veterans and Kern County resident, Matthew Vaughn was just looking for some peace and quiet after he returned home from the military, "I just retired after 20 years in the marine corps, I spent two tours in Iraq, I served in Korea twice, I served over in Europe in Naples Italy and then I was stationed in southern California." Vaughn said.

Vaughn along with other Kern County veterans said that they frequently look for places where they can clear their head and get a sense of peace and quiet because that’s where they feel the most comfortable. According to Vaughn and others, Kelsey Bass Ranch is the perfect place to get just that, "When you get out on the water and there’s no one around you and it's just you a pole and a fish it's just there’s nothing like it."

Since 2009 Rob Knoles and the norther California chapter of the Heroes on the Water non-profit organization have aimed their focus on helping veterans just like Vaughn after they return home, "Just get these guys out on the water to have fun and forget about it," Heroes on the Water chapter coordinator Rob Knoles said.

The chapter held its annual kayak bass fishing event at Kelsey Ranch designed to provide a sense of solitude for military veterans, first responders or anyone dealing with challenges.

Organizers say that based on the feedback from veterans and a study  published in the American Journal of Recreational Therapy kayaking provides a significant improvement in the health related quality of life among wounded, ill or injured service members and Vaughn agrees, "Moon came up over the horizon it was absolutely gorgeous and then woke up bright and early this morning came out and caught a couple more fish, it's just been wonderful."

It’s a free weekend camping trip for veterans to catch up with like minded people searching for the same thing. "It's a nice day, nice group of people so you couldn't ask for anything else," One veteran said while in his kayak.

A way for veterans to heal with other heroes like them, while doing something fun and simple with their fellow service members, "You don't have to do it alone, we're all still here. We may have taken the uniform off and grown a beard or something like that but we're all still the same people on the inside," Vaughn said.

A number of Kern County veterans along with Vaughn made the trip. There are around 80 chapters in the U.S. and approximately four chapters in California. The next trip with the northern California chapter will be this October. If you would like more information you can visit this link.