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24th, 2008 The Wounded Warriors Blog
Little things like for instance, walking.
many of us take that for granted? I know I do. Walking. Forget surfing.
I'm talking about rolling out of bed in the morning, getting yourself
dressed and walking out to the kitchen to pour yourself a cup of coffee.
Last Winter, local Surfer Michael Taylor shot me an email and asked me if would be interested in helping him organize a day of surfing for the Wounded Warriors this summer. Now, for those who don't know who the Wounded Warriors (WW) are, they are an organization that helps introduce Veterans who have been wounded in the GWOT (Iraq, Afghanistan and the Philippines) to outdoor sports such as: skiing, snowboarding, hiking, white water rafting and...Bam! You guessed it-surfing! Although, they had never tried surfing.
Well, I answered that email, the second I read it. "Hell Yes! I'd be interested!" So, we got the wheels in motion, and went through a series of checklists. We got all the shops on board. We got the American Legion POST 35 to step up and help with food and support. We contacted all the local Hampton town authorities as well as Parks and recreation department. And, we got so many local surfers who were willing to volunteer their time to help out that we had to start turning volunteers away.
Many of the local surfers who volunteered were Veterans themselves. It's funny how many Vets are actually out there surfing with us swell after swell. Humble individuals who served our country and are surfers.
Then there were all the others, who didn't serve but just wanted to help out because, well because it was the right thing to do. And my friends, those who did not serve are no less patriotic than those who did. It was a joint effort of all. Veterans, first responders and civilians. All wanting to help these brave Americans try surfing.
These Wounded Warriors wanted to go surfing and by God, we were going to make that wish come true.
But like most of you know, you can't predict waves.
So we watched and waited as Tropical Storm Fay became Tropical Storm Fade. Still, we had back up plans for the WW crew. If there was no surf we'd provide, Stand Up Paddle boards, Kayaks, and an Outrigger canoe. We had the date Friday August 22, 2008 from 10AM-3PM.
prospects for surf looked slim at best.
Dam the torpedoes, we're making this happen with or without surf.
The morning of the event, a funny thing happened. The surf came up. Not the kind of surf we would like but more than enough surf for any beginner to have fun in. And the key word in surfing has always been "fun."
There was not a single cloud in the sky and...the water was warm. You didn't even need a wetsuit. It was that warm.
The vans showed up and the Vets and their families poured out at 10th Street and stood and looked over that cement wall at the surf for the first time and smiled. We all smiled. We all clapped and cheered and the rest as they say...is history. Michael introduced the Vets to the local Surf community and we were off.
day became a series of hoots, cheers and smiles.
I guess me writing about this day is one thing, but to hear others talk about it, is something else. But if I could quote some of those, who you know, I think you'll get a better idea. "The highlight of my summer. This went beyond my wildest expectations." Dave Cropper-Cinnamon Rainbows. "One of the best things I've ever done in my life. A beautiful day" Lenny Nichols ESA Director. "It was awesome. Unbelievable." Mike Paugh-Zaptsix. "I got chicken skin watching these Vets surf for the first time. " Jack Keefe. "Thank you for allowing me to get involved. That was a great." Kevin Grondin.
These are just a few quotes from the local surf scene.
The Vets themselves had as much to say. One of them, Mark Mix was wounded in Iraq in 2004. He was a NAVY SeaBee working with the Marines when a mortar impacted close enough to send shrapnel into his spine. He ended up paralyzed from the waist down. He sat there in his wheel chair on the sand and someone suggested that I offer him a kayak as opposed to surfing. I reluctantly asked him if he'd prefer the easy way over surfing.
He never wavered in his quick answer. "I want to surf."
looked him in the eye and said. "You got it brother." The others
were just as brave, and just as confident. All of them. The four men and
the one woman. All of them having suffered serious wounds, were about
to try surfing for the very first time and showed no signs of being timid
or backing down. None of them.
were all proud of their service and they were not bitter about the war.
In fact, if anything, they said they'd all go back if they would let them.
But I think that one of the truly inspirational Vets would have to be Nicollette Maroulis. She was a NAVY Dog Handler who was attached to the Marines when she was seriously wounded. She lost her dog in the blast. And she spent the next 3 years in a wheelchair. The last year she used a cane and just last week put the cane away.
She was something else.
three years in a wheelchair. The long hard months of therapy, not knowing
if you would ever walk again. The daily grind must of been so hard. Yet,
she never gave up. She worked hard every day, and through many many surgeries,
and her constant work level, she was able to not only "walk again",
my friends...Surfing heals all wounds....
1968 Vietnam. The original Wounded Warriors go surfing.
Today 2008 More Summer Images from New England
Today 2008 PARTING SHOT Wounded Warrior Switchboard Technique