Wounded Warriors Ride the Waves

Return to Table of Contents

Surfing Lesson Helps Rehabilitation Effort

By Annie Hamilton

Hampton Beachcomber, Tuesday, August 26, 2008

[The following article is courtesy of Hampton Beachcomber and Seacoast Online.]

American Legion Post 35 Commander Ralph Fatello cheers on Mark Mix, of Warsaw, Ohio, a U.S. Navy veteran injured in the Philippines and Iraq, as the paralyzed veteran tried out a long board as part of the Wounded Warriors surf at North Beach in Hampton on Friday.
[Rich Beauchesne Photo]

HAMPTON -- The Wounded Warriors fit right in with the community on Friday with their natural surfing skills.

Michael Taylor, who helped to bring the Wounded Warrior Project to Hampton, welcomed the warriors along with their friends and families when they arrived at the beach.

"We just want you guys to have a good time today," Taylor said.

The Wounded Warriors Project helps injured Iraq and Afghanistan veterans get involved with adaptive sports and aids their transition to life at home. American Legion Post 35 also supported the warriors' visit and provided refreshments at the event.

The warriors hit the beach right away to start surfing. Once wet suits were handed out, there was a brief explanation of how to balance while lying down on a surfboard, and how to push up into a standing or kneeling position.

Each new surfer had a spotter and a surfing coach as they headed for the waves of an incoming tide.

Volunteer Andrew Bjornson called it a wonderful idea to have the injured veterans learning new ways to have fun and participate in athletic events.

Hampton resident Ann Donahue was originally at the beach to watch her grandson surf, then became interested as the veterans took to the waves. She thought the Wounded Warriors Project and Disabled Sports U.S.A. (DSUSA) were great ways to help veterans readapt to life at home.

"We can't do enough for our wounded vets," Donahue said.

DSUSA employee Kyleen Davis also suited up and caught some waves with the veterans. She said that adaptive sports are growing in popularity across the country and that positive events such as the Hampton surfing helped increase communities' awareness of a new trend.

(Photo left) Mark Mix, a U.S. Navy veteran injured in the Philippines and Iraq, is briefed before heading into the Atlantic Ocean for a surf lesson.
[Rich Beauchesne Photo]

When warrior Mark Mix finally took a break from surfing, he said it seemed to come naturally. He said his surfing coach told him what to do, and he simply did it. "I guess I follow orders well," Mix said.

Mix also wakeboards and was on a professional ski team in Aspen, Colo. He served in the Navy from 2001 to 2005, took part in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, and was left paralyzed after an explosion in Iraq.

Retired Army Sgt. Thomas Green III can now add surfing to the list of athletics he has succeeded in since his injury. He suffered a crushed pelvis, fractured back and brain damage after a truck he was traveling in was hit by a bomb during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004. Since then he has done adaptive skiing, golfing and now surfing.

Green was taken by ambulance to Exeter Hospital after surfing for possible hypothermia and dehydration.

Retired Army Staff Sgt. Ansel Delacruz enjoyed the surfing and has been snow-boarding, white-water rafting and skydiving. He hopes to get a sky diving license and said he's the kind of person that will try anything once.

He served from 1999 to 2007. An Improvised Explosive Device left him with injured hands, facial scarring and blindness in his left eye. Delacruz is going back to school at Colorado Technical College for a bachelor's degree in human resources.

"I do my best to do whatever I can," Delacruz said. "I'm not going to let anything beat me."

Green released from hospital after scare

HAMPTON — Iraq war veteran Sgt. Thomas Green III was taken to the hospital on Friday, Aug. 22, after surfing at North Beach. Green started the day surfing with a wetsuit and surfboard borrowed from a local surf shop, along with fellow veterans Mark Mix and Ansel Delacruz as part of the Wounded Warriors event.

He successfully rode the waves only moments after entering the water, but returned to the beach feeling dizzy and sick. Emergency medical technicians started an intravenous line on him on the beach and Green was taken by ambulance to Exeter Hospital.

Green was discharged from the hospital later that day and explained his severe head-ache episodes can hit him with no warning and cause dizziness and nausea. Because of that, and the usual aching in his body from injuries sustained in Iraq, he said it is hard to specify exactly what caused him to feel sick.

Green said he had a lot of fun surfing and hopes he can do it again. He wishes he could have stayed longer and is thankful for the guidance and instruction from local surfers who taught him this new skill. Now that he has the hang of it, he can do it again if the opportunity arises, he said.

Green was wounded in April 2004 during Operation Iraqi Freedom when his truck, re-turning from a trip delivering soldiers and sup-plies, was in an explosion and flipped several times. Green sustained a crushed pelvis, fractured back, and brain damage, and has short-term memory loss and chronic headaches.

[—Annie Hamilton]

Return to Table of Contents