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Campus Veterans Helping Wounded Warriors in Operation Surf
March 17, 2015 - No man left behind.
That motto reflects the commitment that each member of the military has toward their brothers and sisters in arms on and off the battlefield.
It’s also the guiding principle behind a program called “Operation Surf” that uses surfing’s physical and emotional benefits to help badly wounded veterans heal and lead productive lives.
More than 300 wounded warriors have taken part in the program since it was founded in 2008 by the non-profit organization Amazing Surf Adventures in California.
Now, Operation Surf is coming to Cocoa Beach from March 19-25 with members of Eastern Florida State College’s Veterans Resource Center and Collegiate Veterans Society volunteering to help.
Among them are Navy veteran Robert Ganoe, who considers the program another way to serve fellow vets from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
“It gives Collegiate Veterans Society members the opportunity to reach out to those who have returned to civilian life and are recovering from the injuries they suffered in defense of our country,” said Ganoe. “We forever share a common bond that all veterans know from service.”
Marine Corps veteran and fellow Collegiate Veterans Society member Bryan Bernhard echoed those sentiments.
“It’s important to help wounded veterans and active duty members with their recovery process, and Operation Surf does that by keeping the ethos of drive, determination and mission accomplishment present,” he said.
Kim Koplar, the Veterans Resource Center coordinator, said that spirit is typical of the more than 800 veterans enrolled at the college.
“They’re a fantastic group of men and women who have sacrificed a great deal for our country and are continuing their service at home through events such as Operation Surf,” she said.
Operation Surf pairs professional surfing instructors with those suffering from amputations, spinal cord and brain injuries, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other wounds.
It introduces them to surfing as a recreational activity and therapeutic tool for healing.
One veteran who can attest to Operation Surf’s value is former Army tank crewman Charlie Lemon of Tampa, who lost both legs in a roadside blast in 2011, according to Florida Today.
He participated in Operation Surf in California and will be hitting the waves with the program again in Cocoa Beach.
“This was an awesome, extremely rewarding confidence builder for me,” he told Florida Today.
Participants will surf at the Cocoa Beach Hilton, Fischer Park and Patrick Air Force Base.
They’ll enjoy other activities as well, including a March 19 motorcycle escort to the Cocoa Beach Hilton where participants will stay during their visit. That arrival event begins at about 1:30 p.m. and organizers hope local residents will line A1A and the hotel parking lot to cheer on Operation Surf participants as they arrive.
The Cocoa Beach event is led by Cocoa Beach City Commissioner and avid surfer Ben Malik along with Sean Slater, owner of Slater Surf and Tackle Shop.
Sponsors include Harris Corp., Northrop Grumman and Craig Technologies.
For more information on Operation Surf, visit amazingsurfadventures.org.
To learn more about the Veterans Resource Center, visit easternflorida.edu/go/veterans