USO Warrior Week: Wounded warriors find peace on the water

Credit: Marielena Balouris

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – As part of USO Warrior Week, veterans and their families got the chance to learn how to surf, thanks to the Wave Warriors Surf Camp.

“The water’s a little cold but the sun is nice and hot so you come out, you’re warmed up like that and ready to go back in,” said Luis Rosa-Valentin. For him, chilly water is nothing. In fact, he says it’s freeing.

“Wheelchairs are bumpy, every little twig on the road, every little crack, all the asphalt,” said Rosa-Valentin. “But you’re riding its nice and smooth, it’s just incredibly relaxing. You can just clear your mind and let all your problems melt away.”

Problems that began in 2008, when Rosa-Valentin was serving his second tour in Iraq. Two days before his 25th birthday, there was an explosion that changed his entire life. He said, “When I woke up, I was 25 years old, missing both my legs, my left arm. I’m completely deaf. I hear with a cochlear implant over here and I’m completely blind in my left eye.”

But he’s not letting any of that stop him. It’s his fourth year at the beach with the Wave Warrior Surf Camp, a group now in its ninth year.

“It’s amazing. Some of them come in a little hesitant, this kind of thing. Once we get them in the water, you’re seeing today a lot of them standing up, sometimes on their first try and they are just on cloud nine. It really is just an amazing day,” said Ken Hunt, who is the co-founder of Wave Warrior Surf Camp.

About 65 wounded warriors and their family members took advantage of the sunshine today, all agreeing that surrender is not an option.

“This isn’t the end,” said Rosa-Valentin. “I can still do these things, I didn’t think I ever would, but I can still do these things.”