May 10, 2012

Wounded Warriors ride the wave to rehabilitation

Lance Cpl. Derrick Irions
Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton
Photo by Lance Cpl. Derrick Irions
Participants with the Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation gather in a meet-and-greet circle before hitting the water for a surf session, part of ocean therapy. Ocean therapy facilitates improved self-esteem for service members dealing with mental and physical illness.

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif.  —  Sun rays pierced through the early morning clouds as ocean waves curled and crashed onto Camp Pendleton’s Del Mar shore.

Juan M. Garcia, assistant secretary of the Navy returned to Pendleton’s waterfront, May 5, to surf alongside Wounded Warrior Marines, participating in the Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation ocean therapy program.

“This is about reintegrating a cadre of Wounded Warriors,” said Garcia. “The Miller family and the [JMMF] have taken on this mission and are changing lives during every session.”

Ocean therapy is gaining recognition among military members for being an alternative means to enhance the recovery and rehabilitation for Marines challenged by Post Traumatic Stress Disorders, traumatic brain injuries and other mental and physical illness.

“We found surfing to be a catalyst for the Marines that inspires them forward,” said Carly Rogers, director of programs for the JMMF.”The ocean therapy program takes the sport of surfing and teaches Marines resilience themes and self-efficacy.”

The JMMF is a non-profit organization dedicated to the life of Jimmy Miller, a Southern California native and avid surfer, which provides free ocean therapy surf sessions to Veterans from the West LA Veterans Hospital, Marines with the Wounded Warrior Battalion – West, Camp Pendleton, and youth from care and shelter facilities for abused and foster children.

Before taking to the water, the group gathered in a meet-and-greet circle where they shared a few words about themselves followed by a brief tutorial on proper surfing techniques.

“Surfing is this dynamic sport that takes strength and agility,” said Rogers. “And uses it in a playful, positive and encouraging environment.”

Through the JMMF surfing sessions, wounded warriors are given a chance to learn how to surf while interacting with others in a social and supportive setting.

“A huge part of the program is engaging with civilians,” said Rogers. “[Marines] have to learn to trust the volunteers in the ocean. It really ends up being this beautiful relationship that the volunteers and the Marines share.”

For more information about the ocean therapy program and future events visit

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