USO Warrior Week: Battling wounds of war through jiu-jitsu

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – On Wednesday, NATO partners, and Danish wounded warriors, received a life-saving lesson from a former Navy SEAL and a Commanding Officer.

The wounded warriors are getting lessons in jiu-jitsu. But for injured veterans, it’s just a metaphor.

For them, jiu-jitsu has nothing to do with fighting but instead programming the mind. One of the wounded warriors taking part in the event is Benjamin Kragsskjold. The martial art is his passion but after he was wounded in war, he was unable to continue for several years.

“I’ve been in the infantry for almost 17 years now,” says Kragsskjold. “Right as I called my guys into position [in Afghanistan], an IED was triggered from afar by a remote control and I was hit.”

The Denmark native was thrown into the fields, one man died, another injured just as badly.

“My nose was almost torn off, I was missing a cheek, my left arm was broken and almost blown completely off, my left leg broken and my right leg was severed,” says Kragsskjold.

But the loss of that right leg doesn’t stop Kragsskjold from returning to martial arts, which is his passion. His instructors are Craig Snyder, who is a Captain in the U.S. Navy, and former Navy SEAL turned Jiu-Jitsu professor, and Linxx Academy founder, Frank Cucci.

Cucci says there are parallels to jiu-jitsu and his time as a Navy seal.

“In those moments of stress, you have to remain calm and execute the plan in the right way and with the right procedures. Otherwise you just fail,” says Cucci.

Failing is not an option for these wounded warriors.

“When I was injured I was told bluntly everything you did before you won’t be able to do,” says Kragsskojold. “I didn’t really believe all the doctors and what you put your mind to, you can achieve. I just worked hard and worked and worked and worked.”

He worked towards his goal of completing the New York City marathon, walking halfway across Africa and now, an instructor in jiu-jitsu to teach the Danish army and police force.

For Benjamin it has nothing to do with fighting – but with programming the mind.

“To watch them come up with a solution to a problem that you’ve never had to face, to see them do it and help them solve that physical problem is absolutely amazing,” says Captain Snyder.

“Their lives change in an instant and I think an activity like jiu-jitsu brings them back to a group of like minded people or that tribute mentally,” says Cucci.

A tribe, much like this group of men, a tribe who work together on the battlefield and now work together on a jiu-jitsu blue mat.

“You go out of your comfort zone and do things you might not ever consider trying.”

Thank you for your service.

★ WARRIOR WEEK EVENTS ★

MON, MAY 29 12AM – FRI, JUNE 2 11:59PM
United Healthcare Memorial Challenge (Service Members Only)

TUE, MAY 30 1PM – 4PM
Horsemanship Program and Trail Ride (Service Members Only)

WED, MAY 31 10AM – 1PM
Horsemanship Program and Trail Ride (Service Members Only)

THU, JUNE 1 10AM – 1PM
Horsemanship Program and Trail Ride (Service Members Only)

FRI, JUNE 2 8AM – 5PM
Hearts for Heroes (Service Members Only)

FRI, JUNE 2 9AM – 12PM
Virginia Beach Adaptive Watersports (Service Members Only)

FRI, JUNE 2 12PM – SUN, JUNE 4 5PM
USO Military Village (Open to the Public)

FRI, JUNE 2 12PM – SUN, JUNE 4 5PM
USO Patriot Park (Open to the Public)

FRI, JUNE 2 1PM – 4PM
Virginia Beach Adaptive Watersports (Service Members Only)

FRI, JUNE 2 7PM – 10PM
Patriotic Festival – Old Dominion (Open to the Public)

SAT, JUNE 3 8AM – 3PM
Heroes on the Water (Service Members Only)

SAT, JUNE 3 8AM
Honor Ride (Service Members Only) – Register Here

SAT, JUNE 3 830AM – 12AM
Monster Mash (Open to the Public)

SAT, JUNE 3 9AM – 3PM
Wave Warriors (Service Members Only)

SAT, JUNE 3 9AM – 12PM
Virginia Beach Adaptive Watersports (Service Members Only)

SAT, JUNE 3 1PM – 4PM
Virginia Beach Adaptive Watersports (Service Members Only)

SAT, JUNE 3 2PM – 6PM
Jumping for a Purpose (Service Members Only)

SAT, JUNE 3 7PM – 10PM
Patriotic Festival – Darius Rucker (Open to the Public) – Get Tickets

SUN, JUNE 4 4PM – 7PM
Patriotic Festival – Jake Owen (Open to the Public) – Get Tickets