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Posted on Jun 21, 2006 in History News

Wounded Soldiers Learn to Water Ski, Scuba and Sail in NY

Armchair General


New York City Firefighters/CBS 2005 Survivor Winner to Teach "Wounded Warriors"

QUEENS, New York — June 20 — Soldiers and Marines severely wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan will have the opportunity to learn adapted water skiing, scuba and other water sports as guests at the 2006 Adaptive Water Sports Festival, presented by Disabled Sports USA, the Wounded Warrior Project, Graybeards, and the Fire Department of New York City (FDNY). Specially trained volunteers from the FDNY, including Firefighter Tom Westman, winner of the CBS 2005 Survivor series, will be on hand to teach the "Wounded Warriors." Despite the fact that most have single and even multiple amputations and other severe injuries, ALL will participate and learn.


Disabled Sports USA’s second annual Adaptive Water Sports Festival, a part of its nationwide Wounded Warrior Disabled Sports Project, will take place in Rockaway Point, New York, July 6-9. The Rockaway community was one of the hardest hit on Sept. 11, and ravaged again by the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 just two months later. Yet, the community proved resilient and responded with a surge of empathy and charitable endeavors. Most notably, the Graybeards were formed, a non-profit dedicated to helping those in need. It is through the Graybeards, in conjunction with the Wounded Warriors and Disabled Sports USA, that this event is again possible.

The event will offer individuals with physical disabilities the opportunity to achieve success in sports, providing the foundation for an active life. An estimated 35 U.S. soldiers and Marines injured during the Iraq conflict, along with family members, will participate as special guests.

The first day of the event will include special training for 25 New York City firefighters in adaptive water ski, wakeboard and sailing instruction. These firefighters will then spend the next three days teaching the 35 wounded soldiers and their families. Heroes will be teaching heroes, as many of the New York City firefighters participating are among those who acted courageously to save lives on September 11, 2001.

"When my daughter lost her hearing, people from Disabled Sports USA reached out to help us focus on her abilities, rather than her disability," said Tom Westman, New York City firefighter and winner of the CBS television series Survivor Palau. "Once we had a positive mindset, we were able to find the path for her rehabilitation.  Events like those sponsored by Disabled Sports USA go a long way in convincing these soldiers and Marines that their lives have not ended, but that it is time to write the next chapter."

"I am looking forward to my children seeing their dad being able to participate in a family sport," said John Jones, US Marine Corps, who is a double leg amputee.  "I am so excited that I am here in this world, and that God has given me a second chance at life. I am glad to be a part of such a wonderful organization that helps people overcome the challenges that life has given them.  The Wounded Warrior Disabled Sports Project has given my family the opportunity to see that I can still do anything, no matter what the challenge."

"Facing the challenges of a disability can be an overwhelming experience," said Kirk Bauer, executive director of Disabled Sports USA and a disabled Vietnam War veteran. "With the New York City firefighters volunteering to teach at the Adaptive Water Sports Festival, it sends a powerful message to everyone with a disability that all challenges can be faced and overcome with courage, perseverance and support from others. It’s heartwarming to see the firefighters supporting the wounded warriors and to witness all of these heroes working together in the face of adversity."

The weekend will kick off with the Heroes in the Harbor Voyage, aboard the Atlantis Mega Yacht. This celebration will honor the sacrifices and rehabilitation efforts of our soldiers and Marines who have been disabled in the war effort.  The dinner cruise will depart from Sheepshead Bay at 6:30 pm on Friday, July 7.  

Sponsors of the event include:   Wounded Warrior Project, Graybeards, FDNY, Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A, Atlantis Mega Yacht and DEMA Scuba Tour.  Adaptive Sports Foundation of Windham, N.Y. along with several other chapters of Disabled Sports USA will be taking part in water ski instructor training.  

About Disabled Sports USA (Wounded Warrior Disabled Sports Project)
The Wounded Warrior Disabled Sports Project is a partnership between Disabled Sports USA, its chapters and the Wounded Warrior Project, providing year round sports programs for severely wounded service members from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflict and the Global War on Terrorism.

Thirty-seven years of experience has shown early intervention with active sports results in successful rehabilitation, leading to employment. The "Wounded Warriors" and their family members are provided these opportunities free of charge, including transportation, lodging, adaptive equipment and individualized instruction in over a dozen different winter and summer sports.

Programs take place at sites throughout the United States of America offering Wounded Warriors the opportunity to integrate as participants and mentors in their home communities.  For more information visit

About The Wounded Warrior Project
Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) is a 501 ( c ) (3) nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting those men and women of the United States Armed Forces who have been severely injured during the wars on terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan and other hot spots around the world. Beginning at the bedside of the severely wounded, WWP provides programs and services designed to ease the burdens of these heroes and their families, aid in the recovery process and smooth the transition back to civilian life. To find out more please visit , or call 1-800-404-2898.