For combat veterans the term “wounded warrior” can mean a physical injury or an emotional one, but more often than not, it’s both. The transition back to civilian life can be complicated enough without the physical rehab and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder many must endure.
While Bob Christie gave his Wounded Warrior a wild ride in his 42-foot Cigarette today …
So for the second consecutive year, the New Jersey Performance Powerboat Club and the Wounded Warrior Project joined forces to provide some on-water thrills during the Atlantic City Festival of Speed. The day included an open category car show that drew 40 vehicles and raised more than $400 for the Wounded Warrior Project.
Events like today’s boat rides help the organization fulfill its mission.
“The public support from groups like this is important for the veterans to experience,” said James O’Leary, an Outreach Coordinator for the Wounded Warrior Project. “It also provides a unique way for the wounded warriors to meet and help each other. They have a common bond; they know what it is to serve and sacrifice.”
Injured himself in 2004 during a mortar attack in Iraq, O’Leary says the boats are more than pretty and fast. “Most of us haven’t experienced that type of adrenaline since combat,” he said.
Cheryl Ebert is a former Master Sergeant who put together convoys in Iraq. She lost the hearing in her right ear to an IED and suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrom. She almost didn’t make the event with her two teen daughters because traveling from her Connecticut home would have required an overnight stay which they could not afford.
Today’s ride, which included a beaching, for the Wounded Warriors was not nearly as wild as the ride he gaves his passengers during yesterdays Atlantic City Poker Run. (Top photo courtesy/copyright Tony Esposito, above photo courtesy/copyright Tim Sharkey/Sharkey Images.
“I was told several of the club members donated to pay for a hotel room, and to know that type of support is out there, it just brought tears to my eyes,” she said.
Ebert talked about the stigma many Wounded Warriors associate with PTSD, which she says causes further isolation and withdrawal. She has progressed in her recovery enough that she has been asked to be a mentor to veterans entering the project.
“But the first event I attend was so comfortable. The people are amazing; they know your story because they’ve been through the same thing,” she explained. “Wounded Warrior Project has helped me get out of my shell and back to a semi-normal life.”
This story wasn’t going to include any NJPPC members, because they all had the same thing to say—what an honor it was to give back say “thank you” to men and women who have sacrificed for our country. That was before familiar power boater Bob Christie returned to the dock with a load of thoroughly soaked passengers.
“Let’s just say I gave them the full boating experience,” Christie said as he busied himself with lines and stowing PFDs.
Christie was in a new boat at this year’s event, a sleek blue & white 2011 Cigarette 42X with twin Mercury Racing 1100 engines that will top out at 125 mph. Christie loves the boat, and his passengers loved going 105. As for the aforementioned “full boating experience,” the veteran captain took a wrong turn at 70 mph, and realized he was running up on a shallow flat.
“So I shut it right down before it started sucking mud,” said Christie. “Then we all got out, pushed the boat to deeper water and headed in.
“I’ve been boating since I was eight years old and it’s never happened to me before,” he continued. “We were talking and it just happened really fast, but the take-away is pay attention to your GPS when you’re near shallow water.”
Editor’s Note: The Festival of Speed concludes tomorrow with the Atlantic City Offshore Grand Prix sanctioned by the Offshore Powerboat Association, with races schedule for with noon and 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time starts. Live streaming of the racing can be viewed on-line at the YouTube channel oparraccingllc. Look for the final report on this three-day event from speedonthewater.com correspondent Tony Esposito on Sunday evening or Monday morning.