Veterans find health and healing through water sports in Erwin, TN


ERWIN, Tenn. (WJHL) — Veterans from across the country are coming together to learn swift-water rescue skills right here in the Tri-Cities.

News Channel 11’s Kristen Gallant was in Erwin Sunday where a national nonprofit group partnered with the Nolichucky Outdoor Learning Institute to provide whitewater safety and rescue training to military heroes.

“What’s great about Team River Runner, and that is an extension to this training, it gives them a sense of purpose because most vets — they want to give back to other vets and other people,” said Scott Fisher, Nolichucky Outdoor Learning Institute founder.

Fisher is a veteran himself, so this program is one that is close to his heart.

The two-day training course costs nothing to these veterans thanks to various sponsors and donations.

For veterans like Linda Johnson who served a little more that 24 years in the Air Force and Scott Brown, serving their country doesn’t stop after their time in the military.

“[I] finished after 28 years as a Senior Aviation Officer,” said Brown, “I’ve been paddling for 23 years. It’s a great outlet to explore new areas, a way to decompress after a long deployment.”

While these veterans share the love of kayaking and the outdoors, they also share the love of helping their communities by learning life-saving skills on the water.

“Mainly how to prevent accidents and incidents and working up into how we manage those incidents with the skills and the tools we have,” explained Brown, “With us what we carry — ropes, carabiners, our paddles and, our selves. Thinking first.”

“Rarely is it people making dumb decisions,” said Fisher, “It’s more that they’re just not informed. So this training really helps with those types of stuff.”

These veterans will be able to take these skills to their hometowns across the country to help other veterans and kayakers in their communities.

As these veterans learn new skills, the national nonprofit, Team River Runner, is giving them an avenue to heal and transition into a life after the military.

“That’s the whole mission of Team River Runner is helping our veterans,” said Johnson, “It’s the river to recovery. With our fellow veterans we can sit around afterwards and talk about our experiences and connect that way.”

This is the first time the organization has partnered with Nolichucky Outdoor Learning Institute to bring white water rescue skills to veterans.

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