Recovering Warriors Go Sailing

Recovering Warriors Go Sailing

A lot of organizations and companies are responding to programs that directly and positively help our veterans, many of whom were wounded defending our freedom. It is a tough effort as so many wounded veterans have trouble coping back in the world, without the support they grew to rely on in uniform. The consequences are often heartbraking.

A lot of organizations and companies are responding to programs that directly and positively help our veterans, many of whom were wounded defending our freedom. It is a tough effort as so many wounded veterans have trouble coping back in the world, without the support they grew to rely on in uniform. The consequences are often heartbraking.

The fleet of one design boats wait for the bus from Walter Reed. The recovering warriors come with a variety of injuries. Should be a good day on the water, and the midshipmen are excited to be a part of this program..

The fleet of one design boats wait for the bus from Walter Reed. The recovering warriors come with a variety of injuries. Should be a good day on the water, and the midshipmen are excited to be a part of this program..

Today I was invited to crew on Lunar Lady during a semi-annual event in Annapolis, hosted by Navy Sailing and the National Sailing Hall of Fame. It is the Recovering Warrior Sailing Regatta, held for the fifth year to introduce our recovering soldiers, sailors, and marines to sailing and sailboat racing.

Naval Academy midshipmen are briefed as to their role in the day's sailing and racing programs. If possible, we will get four races in before we have to return to the Sailing Hall of Fame.

Naval Academy midshipmen are briefed as to their role in the day's sailing and racing programs. If possible, we will get four races in before we have to return to the Sailing Hall of Fame.

Co-host Les Spanheimer of Navy Sailing explained that the initial intent of this program in Annapolis was to develop a model program that could be replicated around the country. They look for yacht and boat clubs that have one-design sailboats available to take recovering military men and women out sailing and introduce them to racing. The Navy brings its fleet of Colgate 26s to the event in Annapolis, which will be sailed by midshipmen in the Navy sailing program.

Another host organization is CRAB, Chesapeake Region Accessible Sailing, which has custom Freedom sailboats, modified for use by those missing limbs and other disabilities. Together, the fleet can accommodate healing veterans and get them out on the water as well as hopefully engage interest in the exciting sport of sailboat racing.

Some of the participants include Admiral Collum, retired General Barnes, and a startled Howard Brooks, who for the first time will fly the flag of a three-star admiral on Lunar Lady, his Selene 40. The young woman lost her right leg in action, but her service dog stays close to her side so you might not even notice.

Some of the participants include Admiral Collum, retired General Barnes, and a startled Howard Brooks, who for the first time will fly the flag of a three-star admiral on Lunar Lady, his Selene 40. The young woman lost her right leg in action, but her service dog stays close to her side so you might not even notice.

Right on schedule, a bus showed up at the National Sailing Hall of Fame with full police escort, in a parking area lined with fire trucks and firemen of the Annapolis Fire Department. As these young men and women got off the bus, they were greeted by Admiral Phil Collom, U.S. Navy, and retired Brigadier General Bob Barnes, U.S. Army, as well as the crowd of midshipmen, volunteers, and other civilians who came to support the event.

The bus arrives from Walter Reed, surrounded by police cars and fire trucks for this special event.

The bus arrives from Walter Reed, surrounded by police cars and fire trucks for this special event.

The police officers and firemen stand by to show respect for those coming off the bus. They understand what has been given in the service of our country, and it is a very serious moment of brothers in arms.

The police officers and firemen stand by to show respect for those coming off the bus. They understand what has been given in the service of our country, and it is a very serious moment of brothers in arms.

Les Spanheimer is now with the Naval Academy Sailing Foundation, but he was instrumental in getting this program off the ground five years ago. As he explained, most of these recovering military have never been on a boat, let alone gone sailing. The hope is that it will be more than just an afternoon outing, but rather something they might find of interest enough to perhaps take up the sport. It also is an introduction to racing, and for those serious about getting into racing, Valhalla Sailing is a successful program that helps develop the skills and experience through clinics it offers. Everyone involved with these programs is serious about their efforts, as they know the alternatives are not always positive.

As Les pointed out, "it is better to learn how to sail...than suicide."

He went on to say that many of these men and women have considerable difficulty living without the support of the groups they belonged to while on active duty, especially the combat units where team members are as tight knit as family. Replacing that team support by joining a racing crew can provide that healthy and needed connection.

Les also commented that it is the midshipmen, the ones in the boats teaching and showing how boats work, that get the most out of this event. They all belong to the the Navy Offshore Sailing Program, and can't wait to meet these veterans, and learn what it is like out there, for many the very reason they are at the Naval Academy. The men and women on the bus are real warriors who have been there, and lived it. The midshipmen want to be with them and absord all they can.

The crew on this Navy 26 get settled in before the first race starts. It is all new to the veterans on this boat. 

The crew on this Navy 26 get settled in before the first race starts. It is all new to the veterans on this boat. 

One of the specially modified CRAB sailboats allows disabled sailors to operate a boat and experience the sense of freedom inherent to the sport.

One of the specially modified CRAB sailboats allows disabled sailors to operate a boat and experience the sense of freedom inherent to the sport.

Not a bright sunny day, but the slight drizzle doesn't impact the fun everyone is having, and the midshipmen are honored to be sharing their knowledge of sailing with those who have been on active duty and given more than most in the service to their country.

Not a bright sunny day, but the slight drizzle doesn't impact the fun everyone is having, and the midshipmen are honored to be sharing their knowledge of sailing with those who have been on active duty and given more than most in the service to their country.

Wish we could keep this flag, and fly it whenever we arrive in a Navy town. Sure to open doors!

Wish we could keep this flag, and fly it whenever we arrive in a Navy town. Sure to open doors!

Admiral Collom explains to Pat Brooks the difficulty of transferring from a warship to a waiting patrol boat in 15-foot seas. Loaded down with 60 pounds of body armor, and carrying weapons, ammo, and other gear, it is serious business, as he recently experienced firsthand. If you lose your grip going from the ship to the boat, you will sink like a stone. 

Admiral Collom explains to Pat Brooks the difficulty of transferring from a warship to a waiting patrol boat in 15-foot seas. Loaded down with 60 pounds of body armor, and carrying weapons, ammo, and other gear, it is serious business, as he recently experienced firsthand.

If you lose your grip going from the ship to the boat, you will sink like a stone. 

Back at the dock by the Sailing Hall of Fame, Les Spanheimer shares a few thoughts with Admiral Collom as the spectators depart Lunar Lady for a buffet lunch hosted by Mission BBQ. The day felt positive, and we all hoped for a healthy future for these recovering men and women. Hopefully they can learn to live with the scars from their service and get on with living healthy and productive lives. Unfortunately, the threat of suicide and other problems continue to plague our returning military.

Back at the dock by the Sailing Hall of Fame, Les Spanheimer shares a few thoughts with Admiral Collom as the spectators depart Lunar Lady for a buffet lunch hosted by Mission BBQ. The day felt positive, and we all hoped for a healthy future for these recovering men and women. Hopefully they can learn to live with the scars from their service and get on with living healthy and productive lives. Unfortunately, the threat of suicide and other problems continue to plague our returning military.

Okay, so I had to include this image, a common sight in Annapolis. Whenever kids and dogs meet on the street, there is sure to be some belly scratching. It is almost an Annapolis tradition. 

Okay, so I had to include this image, a common sight in Annapolis. Whenever kids and dogs meet on the street, there is sure to be some belly scratching. It is almost an Annapolis tradition. 

Help From Above

Help From Above

Happy Easter Everyone!

Happy Easter Everyone!