Getting Into the Flow of Things


H2O4Heroes campaign brings focus to veterans and the benefits of healing on the water

The Oregon State Marine Board (OSMB) joined forces with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs (ODVA), and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), to raise awareness about outdoor recreational opportunities and benefits for veterans and persons with disabilities by creating the H2O4Heroes campaign. The state agencies are working together to highlight some of the lesser-known water recreation opportunities across the state among other offerings being shared on ODVA’s Recreation page.  

OSMB Director Larry Warren, a former Army Medic in the 82nd Airborne, is a big advocate for veterans and the healing benefits of nature. Although not a veteran himself, OSMB board member Craig Withee is a paraplegic and suggests that veterans could benefit from knowing more about outdoor recreational opportunities such as paddling or motorized boating. Director Warren readily agreed.

“We are excited about the H2O4Heros campaign to build awareness of the many recreation benefits and opportunities available to Oregon veterans to enjoy our beautiful state,” said ODVA Director Kelly Fitzpatrick. “The mental and physical healing that is experienced by being in the outdoors, is so important to the overall recovery and well-being of so many of our state’s veterans who have served our nation.” 

ODFW Director Curt Melcher added, “We recognize the great healing powers of water and time spent outdoors fishing, hunting, or just enjoying nature. Veterans served our country and now we want to serve them and people with disabilities by making it easier to get outdoors.”

As a veteran, reduced rates and unique opportunities for hunting, fishing, hiking, and other outdoor recreation are available at state and national parks and on other public lands. Gold Star Families may also receive free access passes to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites.

ODVA’s website offers tips to help users pick, plan, and prepare to enjoy a safe and successful day outdoors using their veteran benefits.  Additional information includes status maps for parks and waterways, and disabled angler and boating access maps. You can also find links to reserve a campground or read the ODFW Recreation Report with up-to-date information on fishing, hunting, wildlife viewing, and more. 

To ensure disabled veterans have access to waterways, the site also includes information about ADA access points on waterways and in parks, as well as the locations of land-based improvements and new dock designs that are providing easier ADA accessibility.

Oregon veterans who are interested in learning about their benefits can get started by visiting ODVA’s website and subscribe to ODVA’s recreation emails for inspirational stories, tips, and other helpful information.

Director Fitzpatrick had one final message to the nearly 300,000 veterans living in Oregon, especially after this long and isolating pandemic year– “Go out and have fun!” 

The Oregon State Marine Board is the state’s recreational boating agency, serving the boating public through education, enforcement, access, and environmental stewardship for a safe and enjoyable experience.

The Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs serves all Oregon veterans and their families, assisting in accessing all earned veterans benefits and programs and providing special advocacy and grant opportunities that help all veterans thrive across the state.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s mission is to protect and enhance Oregon’s fish and wildlife and their habitats for use and enjoyment by present and future generations.

The mission of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department is to provide and protect outstanding natural, scenic, cultural, historic and recreational sites for the enjoyment and education of present and future generations.

About Author

Kathie Dalton is a Communications Coordinator with the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs unites government, private companies, nonprofits and other veteran service organizations to address issues facing veterans and their families.

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