CHICAGO (CBS) — Dozens of veterans attended a kayaking event at Montrose Beach Thursday as a way to help cope with battle scars suffered during the dark days of war. The event was organized by the Wounded Warrior Project with the hopes kayaking would help Chicago veterans relax and help them heal from their hidden injuries on the eve of the Chicago Air and Water Show.
“It brings individuals together that had like-minded experiences and build a peer-to-peer support system,” said Doug Moore of the Wounded Warrior Project.
Veteran Doug Kollar and his service dog, Santana, walked by Lake Michigan, splashed in the water, and went kayaking. While it may have seemed like a perfect day in Chicago, Kollar said he had to take a trip back to 2008 in Afghanistan to understand the full context.
Kollar, referred to as Sarge, is still suffering from PTSD one decade after serving.
“What got me rattled was the rockets. No one told me about the rockets,” Kollar recalled. “I have anxiety sometimes.”
The Wounded Warrior project brought vets, including Sarge, together to paddle around Montrose Beach.
“Around here we can just be ourselves,” Sarge said.
Sarge and Santana took a relaxing cruise on the calm water of Lake Michigan, a brief respite from the traumas of war.
“We accept what I have, accept what we are,” he said.
Shantee Sally said the event, enjoying the lakefront on a summer day in Chicago, was a sharp contrast from her time in Iraq, when the Chicagoan repaired electronics. She also suffers from PTSD.
“This helps me to relax,” Sally said. “I’m around people who understand. Not all wounds are visible. PTSD is an invisible wound. They understand what I’m going through.”
He says despite his suffering, he tries to remain positive.
The timing of the Wounded Warrior event is not an accident. Event organizers planned the event on the eve of the Chicago Air and Water Show to prepare veterans for loud noises in the city over the next few days that could be upsetting.