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 Africa86 votes
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WheresCherie.COM Quote
"Nobody is ever met at the airport when beginning a new adventure. It's just not done. " -- Elizabeth Warnock Fernea

221: California: Disabled Iraq Vets Learn to Sail
@ Site News     Jun 29 2004 - 10:51 PST
cherie writes: Leo Pedraza, a member of the 13B Field Artillery, lost his arm six months ago when he hit a landmine in Iraq. The Anti-Tank Mine was loaded with 9 pounds of explosives and was designed to destroy a tank. It only got Leo’s arm.

Yesterday, Pedraza went sailing for the first time in his life. It was part of a program called “Summer Fest” where partners Disabled Sports USA and Access to Sailing combined their efforts to take 25 American soldiers disabled in IRAQ and show them that they could still skipper a boat, even if they’d never been at the helm before.

I was there, along with 150 volunteers who helped teach disabled IRAQ veterans how to sail. “One soldier got around the boat so well I forgot he was disabled,” said WORSA vice-commodore Bobbie Reed. “I said ‘Watch your foot!’ and then I realized that he didn’t have a foot.”

Duncan Milne founded Access to Sailing in Newport Beach in 1990. When he came up with the idea to take hospital patients and disabled people sailing, many people were skeptics.

“One person told me that there was no way that anyone would give me a boat for free,” remembered Milne. Now, 15 years later, over 200 boats have been donated to Access to Sailing. Ten of those boats set sail on Monday, loaded with disabled veterans from the Iraq War. Jesse Brett captained “Tioga” for Access to Sailing. “People here have a smile in their eyes; it’s a lot different than skippering a tourist boat,” said Brett.

Like Jim Davis said, “There are so many opportunities in life that the loss of two or three capabilities is not necessarily debilitating.”

“Events like this help people to forget their disability,” said Julia Ray from Disabled Sports USA. “They get immediate exhilaration from sports like sailing. It’s an adrenaline rush.”

“When you work with organizations like these, you change people’s lives,” said Tracey Moses who has been volunteering for DS USA for 12 years.

Kirk Bauer, the Director of Disabled Sports USA, lost his leg in the Vietnam War. “After 7 operations and 6 months in the hospital I was lost,” said Bauer. “DS USA gave me a positive focus and turned my life around. That’s what we’re trying to do with these soldiers who are dealing with recent disabilities from the Iraq War.”

The named sponsor of “Summer Fest” is the Million Dollar Round Table Foundation. MDRT is a 45 year old organization with members in 60 countries that granted 1.2 million dollars to organizations like Disabled Sports USA. “Those soldiers have God-given gifts that they haven’t exercised yet,” said John Lee, President of MDRT. “An event like this gives them an opportunity to exercise those gifts.”

On Janurary 16th, Leo Pedraza was fighting for his life. “I was in a pool of blood and I saw blood and muscle all over the Hum-v,” said Pedraza. Three months later, Pedraza was able to get out of his wheel chair and now 6 months later, Pedraza skippered a 60-foot yacht.

“Look at him now,” said Pedraza’s wife, Valerie.
In the words of Lawrence Bixby, “Each handicap is like a hurdle in a steeplechase, and when you ride up to it, if you throw your heart over, the horse will go along, too.”
Here are my photos.

Access to Sailing


Disabled Sports USA

Click on each picture to see it full size.

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Valerie laughs as she watches her husband Leo sail for the first time.  Leo lost his arm 6 months ago in Iraq.

Valerie laughs as she watches her husband Leo sail for the first time. Leo lost his arm 6 months ago in Iraq.

Kirk Bauer, Director of Disabled Sports USA, lost his leg in Vietnam.  Now he helps other veterans overcome their disabilities.

Kirk Bauer, Director of Disabled Sports USA, lost his leg in Vietnam. Now he helps other veterans overcome their disabilities.

John Martineau, the Boating Director of Access to Sailing.

John Martineau, the Boating Director of Access to Sailing.

Kirk raises the main.

Kirk raises the main.

75-year old Tony came to offer his 70 years of sailing experience.

75-year old Tony came to offer his 70 years of sailing experience.

Lee and Valerie Pedraza.  Leo was coming home in 3 weeks, when he lost his arm in Iraq.

Lee and Valerie Pedraza. Leo was coming home in 3 weeks, when he lost his arm in Iraq.

Kirk says that Disabled Sports USA turned his life around.

Kirk says that Disabled Sports USA turned his life around.

John and Tony, father and son, yank on the jib sheet.

John and Tony, father and son, yank on the jib sheet.

Now Leo wears his wedding ring on his right hand.

Now Leo wears his wedding ring on his right hand.

Kirk and Tony hold on as we tack around the sea lions.

Kirk and Tony hold on as we tack around the sea lions.

John Lee, President of MDRT, was the named sponsor for DS USA's "Summer Fest."

John Lee, President of MDRT, was the named sponsor for DS USA's "Summer Fest."

Here's Tony, sitting on his boom.

Here's Tony, sitting on his boom.

Julie and Kirk, from Disabled Sports USA.

Julie and Kirk, from Disabled Sports USA.

One of the 10 boats that took out US Soldiers that were disabled in Iraq.

One of the 10 boats that took out US Soldiers that were disabled in Iraq.

I think Kirk is having fun.

I think Kirk is having fun.

Tracy is a volunteer for DS USA.

Tracy is a volunteer for DS USA.

Here's to 75 years young!

Here's to 75 years young!

Who knew sailing could be so relaxing?

Who knew sailing could be so relaxing?

Leo is all smiles at the helm.

Leo is all smiles at the helm.

Allee and Captain Jesse.

Allee and Captain Jesse.

Julia and Tracey.

Julia and Tracey.

After being at the helm all day, Leo takes a break with his wife Valerie.

After being at the helm all day, Leo takes a break with his wife Valerie.

Worsa members volunteered to make sure the day was smooth sailing.

Worsa members volunteered to make sure the day was smooth sailing.

Duncan, the Founder of Access to Sailing, surrounded by ladies.

Duncan, the Founder of Access to Sailing, surrounded by ladies.