No announcement yet.

Hope For Warriors

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Hope For Warriors

    Ronnie Simpson at the start of the 2010 Single Handed Transpac aboard the Mt Gay 30, "Warriors Wish"

    Interview by Jeremy Leonard

    No matter your political affiliation, or where you stand on war, we as Americans have a situation on our hands that we need to come up with a plan to deal with. It’s our duty a citizens of this great country to take care of the veterans that our government sends into harms way.

    Though the exact number is difficult to nail down, it is estimated that one out of every four veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan will suffer some sort of disability incurred while serving our country. The instances of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are staggering, and again, the data isn’t easily accessible. In 2011, Colonel Charles Hoge, a 20 year Army Veteran and noted psychiatrist, testified to the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs that, “Of veterans who experienced direct combat in Afghanistan or Iraq, an estimated 10-20% struggle with PTSD, similar to rates after Vietnam. Depression, alcohol/substance abuse, suicidal behaviors, and other mental health concerns are also prevalent. In addition, large numbers of veterans experience readjustment challenges of a less severe nature. These problems can affect the veteran’s spouse, children, and other family members, and can impact the ability to find meaningful work and enjoy life.” Also in his book, Once a Warrior, Colonel Hoge writes extensively on the “stigma” involved in seeking help with these illnesses, so many cases go unreported Clearly, veterans of these conflicts are going to need help beyond what the VA and other government agencies can provide.

    BAADS Pier 40 Headquarters

    Though there are many programs to assist injured vets, their success has been spotty, and there are people who feel the need to amend these programs with a grassroots, vet-centered approach. Enter Ronnie Simpson, who had an out-of-the-box idea to help his fellow injured combat vets. Ronnie recently teamed up with Hope for the Warriors, and the Bay Area Disabled Sailors (BAADS), to bring a handful of wounded vets onto the water. Ronnie, an injured Iraq War vet himself, felt the need to develop a program, where injured vets could feel the freedom of gliding through the water, unencumbered by the wounds that they received in combat. Ronnie’s motivation to get vets on the water is personal, and he partly credits sailing for helping him transition back into civilian life after being wounded in combat, “…sailing has completely changed my life. It has made me who I am, and helped me to transition to a life beyond the war Iraq. It’s allowed me to realize that there are some problems, and to go try and help some other vets.”

    On June 30, 2004, at the young age of 19, Ronnie almost died at the result of an attack on the convoy that he was travelling in between Baghdad and Falluja, Iraq. A munition blast ripped Ronnie from the .50 machine gun that he was manning atop a Humvee, and tossed him vilolently around inside the truck. The blast was so powerful, that both of Ronnie’s retinas were detached, and it was so hot that it melted his night vision goggles. He was burned over 9% of his body. A poignant documentation of Ronnie’s journey can be read in this Outside Magazine article.

    Ronnie will sail his Moore 24 101 this year in the Singlehanded Transpac using the publicity to draw attention to the Hope For Warriors Project
    Boat Info

    I have never had to excuse myself while conducting an interview about sailing before I met up with Ronnie Simpson and his group of Wounded Warriors. As I was interviewing injured veterans, who were sailing on the SF Bay as part of Hope for the Warriors, I had to take several moments in an effort to gather myself. The stories that I was hearing from these Vets, which documented their incredible individual journeys of survival and healing after horrifying trauma during active wartime duty with the US Armed Forces, was pretty intense. I’m a feeling person, and the stories of brutality, survival and perseverance in the face of adversity, were extremely raw and real.

    A handful of wounded vets, from all over the country, participated in this inaugural Hope for the Warriors sailing event. Ronnie is articulate, laidback and fit. He keeps his hair cropped close through which you can see the scars from his wartime wounds, and he engages in conversation with intensity.

    Sailing a Liberty boat provides a certain liberty and freedom like no other activilty

    As I walked down the docks with Ronnie, he gave me the rundown on several of the soldiers, including Jordan, one of the participating veterans, “The dude’s 26, originally from Sacramento. He's in the Navy, he’s an EOD (Explosives Ordinance Disposal) guy. He got shot in the head on December 17th in Afghanistan. After he got shot, he fell off of a 30’ roof and landed on his head. They didn’t know if he was going to live, or be paralyzed. He is incredibly fortunate to even be here, let alone recovering as well as he is. I walked up to him today and very gingerly offered, ‘Oh hi, I'm Ronnie. How are you?’ He replied, ‘What’s up, I’m Jordan.’ I could tell immediately that up in his head, he’s 100%. He was originally left handed, which is a blessing, because the brain damage affects his right side. We took him out on the Access Dinghy, and he absolutely loved it. Before injury he was a surfer, and a kite-boarder; a total waterman. He said that today's sailing was the single best day that he’s had since he got shot.”

    Another wounded vet, Michael Welch, who came to SF from Oklahoma was smiling from ear to ear when I interviewed him, had an epic time on the water as well. His language ant tone became somber when I asked him how he was injured in combat, “I was in a few incidents with IEDs and I was in a roll over. My back is messed up, and my leg, but my main thing is PTSD. This clinic has been great. To get out of home and to be where good people are, laugh and have fun.” Clearly, the trauma of his wounds, and the pain of dealing with it in his everyday life were broken up by the incredible opportunity to sail on the iconic SF Bay.

    Ronnie has big visions of integrating other Adaptive sports into his sailing program, but the physical limitations of some of the vets can be challenging. Ronnie reflects, ” A lot of guys that came to this clinic aren’t used to sailing, and being on the water for eight hours a day, I’ve noticed several of the guys getting tired. I want to keep all of the activities water based, like kayaking or surfing.”

    The incredible group, Bay Area Diasabled Sailors BAADS, has facilities located on the City Front of San Francisco at Pier 40 that are specifically designed to get people with any number of disabilities on the water and successfully sailing. Alex Hruzewicz a volunteer for BAADS, who was once confined to a wheelchair, explains his motivation,

    Ronnie Simpson sails in a BAADS Liberty Dinghy
    Photo Sail revolution

    “ I just volunteered to help out Hope for the Warriors. We’re using Acess Dinghys, these are called 303s and the bigger ones are called Liberties. These were designed in Australlia by a gentleman named Chris Mitchell. I started sailing them 5 years a go. I was in a wheelchair at the time, and I didn’t think that I’d do much sailing again due to my injuries. So these boats allowed me to sail again, and I think it’s awesome to share that with other people.” Please consider volunteering or donating to BAADS! They really do incredible work.

    Hope For Warriors Team Director Jenlene Nowak was on site at the BAADS facility, and is excited to Support Ronnie in his sailing endeavors, “We’re supporting Ronnie’s sailing clinic, and we’re the title sponsor for his Single-Handed Transpac campaign. He want’s to give back to the veterans, so we’re here supporting that.

    Hope for the Warriors does necessary work within a variety of different sports, Jenlene explains, “This sailing clinic fell under my jurisdiction, and we have a community team that fundraises. For example, we have bids for the Marine Crops Marathon, the New York Marathon, and different popular races, so people come to us with the bids to fundraise, that allows us to bring in wounded team members to participate. Another part of our program is the donation of adaptive equipment like hand-cycles, so that wounded vets can participate.”

    The teaming of Ronnie, BAADS, and Hope for the Warriors seems natural, and has the potential to make a significant, positive impact on the lives of many recovering soldiers. Jenlene was impressed how it all came together, “This is our very first sailing clinic, and these are our first participants, I’m sure we’ll see a lot of interest from this. It was amazing to watch the progression from a person who had never sailed, to being on their own after just 3 days. I think it’s going to have a lasting impact. I think that by being here with BAADS, and working with Ronnie, the participants are inspired to get into something new. I want to give my deepest gratitude to these volunteers at BAADS, they are so amazing and patient. They went above and beyond. I am very impressed with their organization.”

    I look forward to seeing the development of Hope for the Warriors sailing project. For more information on their programs, contact Ronnie directly.

    Jeremy Leonard
    Last edited by Photoboy; 05-10-2012, 06:00 PM.
    " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella" Photo Gallery

  • #2
    Great article Jeremy! Tough situation. I got to help teach a wounded warrior how to use a sit ski last winter - rewarding volunteer time and things like this need to be out there in front of everyone. Great article.
    A little disorganization goes a long way toward fun sailing.


    • #3
      Very nicely done Jeremy, and great work looking out for your fellow service men and women Mr. Simpson!

      The crew at BAADS are without question, some of the most selfless individuals who ever sail.


      • #4


        • #5
          Thanks, guys! It's my little way of giving back...albeit, compared to what some of these guys gave, it doesn't seem like much.
          The Real Surf City


          • #6
            Great work.
            As a vet it makes me feel good when I see mt fellow brothers and sisters bieng honored for their service.
            Richard Vilvens
            Brand Ambassador
            PSA Capricorn USA
            F-18 5150


            • #7
              Quantum Open House/ Hope for Warriors Open House Tonite!

              There is a Quantum open house at the Quantum Point Richmond loft tonight, May 17, between 5-8 pm. Ronnie Simpson will have his Moore 24 on display, guests can tour the loft, there will be wine and finger foods. Ronnie will be conducting a talk and they will be raising money to teach wounded veterans to sail. And it's free!

              Who: Anyone. It's free.
              What: Quantum Open house and Ronnie Simpson speaking gig
              When: Thursday May 17, 5-8 pm
              Where: Quantum Sails Point Richmond Loft

              Address: 1230 Brickyard Cove Road #200 Pt. Richmond, CA 94801


              Phone: 510.234.4334


              " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

     Photo Gallery


              • #8

                The first open house at Quantum Pacific loft took place last night in Point Richmond. Kicking off just after 5, it was the perfect way for Bay Area sailors to enjoy their Thursday evening and unwind after the work day. With complimentary beer, wine and finger foods on hand, guests mingled and toured Quantum Pacific’s attractive and spacious loft. Beginning at 6:30, Quantum-sponsored racer Ronnie Simpson gave a speaking engagement telling his life story, talking about his Singlehanded Transpac campaign and closing off with an overview of the wounded-veteran sailing program that he is working to help create. After the presentation, there was a fundraising event that raised nearly $1,000, with all of the proceeds going towards Hope for the Warriors’ next wounded-veteran sailing clinic. Jeff Thorpe of Quantum Pacific got the fundraising ball rolling with a generous donation of $500 and a brief message, “Ronnie’s got a compelling story and is raising money for a great cause. Quantum is honored to support Ronnie’s campaign and his mission of teaching wounded vets to sail”.

                Quantum Pacific plans to continue offering free seminars and open house events at their Point Richmond loft on the following topics: sail trim, sail selection and proper use of instruments. “I see a lot of owners out there that just need a bit of coaching and instruction. If we get them into the loft for a presentation, we can show them a few tricks and help them get the most out of their boat”, says Jeff Thorpe. The next open house and seminar will be late in the summer.
                " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

       Photo Gallery