Kevin Pannell

There is a high that you get during war that seems to be impossible to retain once you get home. Your pulse is pounding in your ears, you’re so scared you can barely catch your breath but the adrenaline rush is something you would kill to feel again. At that point you have nothing but yourself and your trust for that guy next to you.

My favorite part of the last trip was when Jason and I were getting our butts kicked and bashed through the surf breaks. For the first time since I left the war I got that feeling back. I didn’t get a real breath for probably four or five breaks and I got that same pulse pounding breath-taking adrenaline rush I felt so many times before in little alleyways all over Baghdad.

I was able to keep the panic away and get back on the boat and charge again because of the trust I have in Jason. Once we were through I used the last of my energy to reach back and slap hands with him. WHAT A FEELING!

I am actually having withdrawal now that I am home and have no boat to paddle. I have nothing else to do with my life right now so why not become the best paddler that I can possibly be. A full time paddler…hmm…not a bad life I’d say. I have a ton of rivers to run close to here and can’t wait to increase my skill level until I can become an instructor.

I feel like I have found my niche in life like nothing I’ve felt before. Being in a boat is almost like having my legs back. I mean, legs or no, if you are properly outfitted, everything from the waist down is boat. Another thing is the comraderie. I mean, you guys had just met us and treated us like family. Every little accomplishment merited praise. I feel like I have made friends that will hopefully last a lifetime. Thank you for that.

Vanessa Jones

Committe Co-Chair

Vanessa A. Jones is a dynamic force dedicated to fostering
inclusivity, encouraging discussion, and promoting a culture of
belonging in the outdoor sports community. Hailing from
Washington, DC, she brings a wealth of diverse experiences and
perspectives to her endeavors.
As a US Army veteran and ordained Chaplain with a focus on
seniors and caretakers, Vanessa is deeply committed to serving
others. Her work as a patient-caretaker advocate reflects her
passion for supporting vulnerable populations and ensuring their
voices are heard.
Currently, Vanessa is employed by a resettlement agency, where
she confronts challenges head-on with resilience and
compassion. As a single, Black woman veteran, she embraces
the unique hurdles she faces, viewing them as opportunities for
growth and empowerment.
In her downtime, she wears many hats, including that of a
missionary, spreading hope and positivity wherever she goes.
Weekends are spent paddling, immersing herself in West African
dance and finding solace and joy in nature’s embrace.
Vanessa is committed to equitable principles, ensuring that
everyone’s opinions are valued and heard. Through her
unwavering dedication and inclusive leadership, Vanessa is
paving the way for a more equitable and diverse outdoor sports