Marines Magazine

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SURFING U.S.A.

LONG BEACH, N.Y. — Tara Hutchinson smiled more than you’d expect for someone who could barely stand on a surfboard. She had wiped out more times than anyone else in the water, and yet she paddled back out for another go.

The retired Army sergeant first class has spent the last four years undergoing countless surgeries after losing her leg in Iraq, and without that second limb to steady herself she was not having much luck staying on the board.

Hutchinson’s surf lesson was part of a week-long program for wounded service members by the Long Beach Waterfront Warriors. The Long Beach Waterfront Warriors hosted 34 recovering wounded service members and their families July 24 to July 30.

“I love it here. I was the first one on the surfboard last year,” said Angela Lupe. Her injuries in 2003 left her confined to a wheelchair and eventually she was medically separated from the Army in 2005.

Lupe watched from the beach as volunteers pushed special beach wheelchairs into the water and helped amputees out into the waves. “I hope they get as much out of this as I did. It can change their lives forever,” she said. “It’s not about one event or one day, it’s about the community and the people expressing their support.”

Local residents host guests in their homes instead of lodging the visiting service members at a hotel, creating an informal getaway for visiting families, said Lupe.

“We want to let these guys know we really appreciate what they’ve done for us,” said Jerry Snell, Long Beach Waterfront Warriors chairperson.
“The entire community has really stepped up,” he said.

Snell said the community wanted to create a relaxing respite for families going through the long process of recovering from war injuries.

Gunnery Sgt. Marcus Wilson, an infantryman, has gone through just about every emotion since being injured in Iraq in 2006. Here, he relaxed on the beach while his three children played in the water.

After his leg was amputated he had to decide if he should stay in the Marine Corps.

“It was very tough initially. You feel worthless to the Marine Corps and you don’t want to be a burden to anybody,” said Wilson, Marine Liaison Office, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, company gunnery sergeant.

As he began recovering physically his optimism increased as well. He was one of the first amputee Marines to attend the Advanced Course, a two-month resident course in advanced leadership and field tactics.

“I can do anything an able-bodied Marine can do, I just need to be more creative with how I do it, and that’s what grunts are good at,” he said.

Wilson was recently selected for promotion to first sergeant and hopes to move from Walter Reed to a position back in the Marine Corps later this year.

Hutchinson hadn’t stopped trying to surf. After one particularly hard fall off the board, a lifeguard and some volunteers in the water nearby attempted to provide an out for her. “You ready to get out?”

Someone even motioned to her wheelchair on the beach.

Like plenty of other wounded warriors she’d moved beyond being embarrassed by slips and falls from her physical shortcomings.

She was going to surf.

She laid out on the board and with the momentum of the wave she slid forward, pushed herself up and planted her one leg on the board.

And for one fleeting moment she was finally surfing.

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  • Hi

    Well being an Aussie who has never managed to stand on a board I’m VERY impressed. Keep having fun guys.

  • aurelia cunningham

    what a great person god bless her semper fi

  • Noni Kaplan

    It was an amazing event for all who attended. Life changing for myself and my injured son who surfed on his prosthetic leg. While we laid on our surf boards together waiting to catch the next wave, I saw the joy in my sons eyes that had been gone since he was injured in April 2008. My heart was filled with emotion. Seeing Tara get up for that moment was so inspiring. This event made me realize that from everything bad, comes something good. I now have life long friends and feel as if I am part of the Long Beach Waterfront Warrior’s family. Thank you to the entire town of Long Beach, Long Island for ALL you do. Love from the entire Kaplan Family, Preston, Nicole & Noni Kaplan

  • Ryan

    Thank You to all the Marines that give their life so I can live mine…… to all people serving in the Navy Army or Air Forces THANK YOU!!!!

  • SSgt Thomas Tremblay

    I am always in awe of the spirit of our American servicemembers! Keep your spirits high! I salute you passion for life and commitment to our country.

  • Angela AUSTRALIA

    These are inspiring stories; our coalition forces perform such amazing duties on our behalf; We remember those that have passed away for our countries, we forget that more of our troops return with both physical and mental injuries. God bless those that are supporting our returned warriors, and may we keep our hearts open for them, when we meet them.

  • Michelle Hughes

    This is such a blessing to read about. As a disabled vet from the Gulf War I am so happy to hear my fellow comrades having a wonderful time. Plus to hear of a community to open their hearts and homes to soldiers. God bless them. Please keep the stories coming and send them to the DAV magazine too.