October 26, 2012
I was recently honored to attend a Sailing Clinic sponsored by Hope for the Warriors. Ronnie, Don and Walt, along with a host of amazing volunteers, put together one of the most influential weeks of my life. Being introduced to the sailing community in grand style (sailing with 1-1 instruction, watching the America's Cup World Series Regatta from a racing yacht in the San Francisco Bay, accepting the hospitality of Team Oracle) was an experience not to be forgotten. More importantly, being introduced to a sport which seems to have been created to treat PTSD and even out the competitive playing field for almost any disability was inspirational. The clinic was well-organized, yet flexible to accommodate each individual's challenges. Outside activities, including visiting Redwoods, were enjoyed by all and nothing felt like mandatory fun. More important than every good thing I could say about the clinic and how much it benefitted me, the people involved were the absolute salt of the earth. Ronnie Simpson's passion for sailing is only rivaled by his desire to share it with disabled veterans. Don Gray, father to the group, shared his lessons learned as a Vietnam Veteran while keeping the clinic on schedule. Walt Kotecki is one of the most compassionate guys I've ever come across. All the volunteers at BAADS (Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors) and the sailing instructors showed us nothing but love the entire Clinic. Amazing job by all. Finally, the most inspirational part of my week was spending time with the other participants. The camaraderie and brotherhood that we lose when we transition out of the military is found in the veteran community and organizations like Hope for the Warriors allow us to tap into that source of strength and support. I can't thank you all enough.
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