MONTEREY, Calif. — Local Coast Guard officials say they are a bit nervous about an upcoming event involving dozens of disabled military veteran racers competing in a Wounded Warrior Sailing Race, sources confirmed today.
“If we’re going to start together then we're going to end together,” said Marcus Distelrath, a former U.S. Marine who lost both his arms in an IED blast, before starting the race.
“Um…yeah, about that,” said Petty Officer Stacy Hearn, a Boatswain’s Mate at Station Monterey. “We’re really supportive but this seems a bit dangerous and excessive. I mean, there’s one guy who’s using just his teeth to handle the lines."
She added: "I’m pretty sure he’s just a life jacket with a head.”
Distelrath is part of the veteran non-profit organization, Sailing For Freedom, which provides veterans with sailing lessons as they begin their transition from military to civilian life.
“I’ve always wanted to do a sailing race, but I was always uneasy and terrified to do it on my own,” said Matthew Estes, who has been learning how to sail for the past six months despite having lost his legs and his right eye in a fire fight in the Middle East. “But Marcus has really given me the bravery that I can do whatever I want despite my disability.”
“Look, we’re not going to cancel the event,” said Hearn with her hands positioned in a defensive manner. “But let’s just say we’re going to be like a parent watching their toddler tightrope walk for the first time.”
Bob Cohen, who’s also a disabled U.S. Marine, has post-traumatic stress disorder and suffers from epileptic seizures.
“My brain just kind of lights off like a fireworks factory catching fire, but I’m still physically fit, and there are veterans that are perfectly capable of doing a race like this. Just because my mind is like a spastic Tasmanian devil, I would like to help these vets achieve something and not have their injury define them,” Cohen adds.
Some of the veterans will have their service animals with them in case they suffer from an episode that impacts their ability to sail.
“Oh, Christ,” added Hearn.