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USNA Midshipmen Sail With Wounded Warriors

Posted on: September 16, 2013 08:00 EDT by MC3 Jonathan Correa

Midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy and the National Sailing Hall of Fame (NSHOF) came together to host the 2nd annual Wounded Warrior Sailing Regatta (WWSR) Sept. 14 at the Annapolis, Md., National Sailing Hall of Fame Docks.

This event involved wounded warriors from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and throughout the region and brought them to the Chesapeake Bay for a day of sailing and racing.

The event started off with a performance by the U.S. Naval Academy band. The service members were greeted by Vice Adm. Phil Cullom before they boarded one of the Freedom 20’s or USNA Colgate 26’s sail boats for the race. The event ended with lunch and an awards ceremony.  

“This involves their entire family if they wish,” said Paul Bollinger, volunteer with the Sailing Hall of Fame’s Wounded Warriors Sailing Squadron. “It gets them in an environment few have experienced before.”

Bollinger was the creator of the 2012 Wounded Warrior Sailing Regatta and had a continued leadership role with the support of NSHOF, Chesapeake Region Accessible Boats, and the USNA sailing team to help make this year’s event happen.

“It is important to get these wounded warriors out of the hospital environment and into the fresh air,” said Bollinger. “They were able to go into the Chesapeake Bay to have fun with family and friends while actually sailing a boat versus sitting inside.”

The Wounded Warrior Sailing Regatta was a way to give some of the wounded soldiers a chance to do something they hadn’t done before.

“I absolutely loved it,” said Army Sgt. Cassandra Pusateri, who was wounded while on a mission in Nanghar Province, Afghanistan. “I was in control of the jib, which controls the speed of the sail boat, and on top of that the boat was handicap capable, which for me is definitely needed.”  

 “I didn’t want to go at first, but I am glad I did,” said Pusateri. “I would tell other wounded warriors that when you see an event that you have the ability to attend, have an open mind, and just do it.”

Bollinger said the event could not have been successful without the help of volunteers.

“It was nice to help out and get a chance to work with some of these serves members,” said Midshipman 3rd Class Alex Mcintosh. “It was a great opportunity to work with the wounded warriors, and I look forward to next year’s event.”

Bollinger added that the sailing regatta has started to grow in visibility and support within the wounded warrior community.

“They really didn't want to leave Annapolis and the new friends they made,” said Bollinger. “We know they will go back to Walter Reed and tell their fellow wounded warriors what a great time they had.”

Bollinger is trying to build a sailing program for the wounded warriors across the country with the help of the Department of Veterans Affairs and the NSHOF member yacht club.

This program not only gets the wounded warriors out for the day but it helps them stay positive through some difficult times, said Pusateri.

“Don’t ever give up,” added Pusateri. “If you hit a bump in the road stay positive and constantly remind yourself that you can do whatever you put your mind to.”

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