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thomas mcnamara

Chief Master Sergeant,
U.S. Air Force (Ret.)
Heroes On The Water Northwest Washington Chapter

Initially, it was chance that led Thomas to consider a career in the military. While working in an auto repair shop, he serviced the vehicle of an U.S. Air Force recruiter. As they talked, Thomas realized that enlisting would give him the opportunity to serve his country- though it would take years for him to realize just how much this service would mean to him.

"I actually got sick and had a medical evaluation where I had to fight to stay in," Thomas says. It was during this period that he realized, "Okay, this is 100% what I want to do. There's no other thing that I want to be doing." In the end, he was allowed to stay in the military, which he now recognizes as his calling. From that day forward, he never took the opportunity for granted.

An impressive 30-year career followed. Thomas was responsible for the care and training of 700 personnel as well as the maintenance of 44 aircraft. "Basically, you take an airplane, you go fly around the world with it and whatever breaks, wherever you are, you have to be able to fix it and continue with the mission. You're in places like Wake Island where there's literally nothing but a gas tank and a runway, and I have to be able to fix the plane with the tools I have and the stuff that's in my backpack," Thomas explains. He retired with the rank of Chief Master Sergeant.

His resourcefulness is now put to use in his role as Equipment Coordinator for the Washington Chapter of Heroes on the Water: an organization he first approached 18 months before his retirement. He was looking for a way to give his Airmen a healthy outlet, but soon discovered just how much he needed one as well.

"I realized I wanted to spend my time helping others achieve that same feeling of peace and fun that I had during my first event," he says, "I can put myself in a position to help as many veterans, first responders, and family members as possible. And the unexpected effect of serving as a Heroes on the Water volunteer is having a new mission, purpose, and ultimately relieving my burdens."

Heroes on the Water is dedicated to providing free wellness programs to veterans, first responders, active-duty military members, and their families. At the core of this organization are kayaking and fishing expeditions that allow people to experience all the healing properties water has to offer, while forming bonds with this tight-knit community.

Learn more about Heroes on the Water and find more chapters at

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