Soldiers Cruise Chesapeake

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
Washington Times
October 14, 2008
Pg. 16

Injured veterans offered sailing trips as part of recovery

ANNAPOLIS (AP) -- The U.S. Naval Sailing Association is helping soldiers recovering at area military hospitals by offering them cruises on the Chesapeake Bay.
Among those who recently took a trip was Staff Sgt. Victor Campos, who served in Iraq for 32 months before being sent home for an illness.
"I didn't want to leave, but I had to go," said Sgt. Campos, who is being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, in the District. "I spent a lot of time over there trying to help everybody. Had some meaning to it."
When he's finished his doctor appointments, Sgt. Campos often takes daylong bike rides around the city, including trips to Capitol Hill.
He was joined on his recent sailing trip with about 45 other guests, which included family members and others wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The group met at City Dock and boarded Watermark's Annapolitan II. They toured the Bay for 90 minutes and learned about the city's history and the U.S. Naval Academy. The captain circulated among the guests, performed magic tricks and let a few children handle the wheel.
The tour marked the third time the association has held such an event, known as Vets on the Bay. The other two were held last summer.
Free transportation was offered so the veterans and their relatives could get to City Dock. After the boat tour, the group was treated to lunch at the Fleet Reserve Club.
"I'm a Vietnam vet and we were treated pretty badly," said Lt. Col. Bob Howe, the sailing association's executive director. "I do what I can to have that not happen to these guys this time."
Marine Sgt. David Budwah, a patient at the National Naval Medical Center, in Bethesda, suffered physical and psychological damage during tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Sgt. Budwah said he has felt anxiety in large crowds or when he hears loud noises such as fireworks. People sometimes laugh at him, he said. Others, like those who took the tour, are more compassionate.
"I'm thankful to the people who have taken the time out to show us a good time," said Sgt. Budwah, who writes music to unwind. "This gives us time to relax and shows what life is."
Chris Lewis, who provides counseling services at Fort Meade, said the return to the United States is different for each veteran, but isolation is a common theme.
"They go through a honeymoon stage where they're very happy to see people initially, but then they start to isolate themselves," said Mr. Lewis, who is also the social service coordinator at the post's Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center. "It gets worse until they get help. That's the wonderful thing about these events is that we can get their families involved and have an intervention very early. We have to get these people back to society."
Staff Sgt. Sonja Johnson was injured before she was deployed. Now she is recovering at Walter Reed. But she and her three sons have had a rough year with three relatives dying within months of each other.
Events such as the Vets on the Bay help them unwind.
"It's great that people and private organizations are doing something for the soldiers," Sgt. Johnson said. "Everyone thinks the Army has all this money for treatment. A lot of soldiers have severe injuries and have a hard time getting out" into their regular lives.