A Wounded Warrior’s Solo Wish

We’re all guilty of feeling sorry for ourselves, some more often than others. But the next time you do, think about Iraq veteran and wounded combat Marine Ronnie Simpson. His story will make you re-evaluate your life in a hurry.

Simpson served in the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines and was a part of the first invasion of Fallujah in April 2004. A month later, his life changed forever when Simpson was severely wounded after his Humvee was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

Simpson was in a medically induced coma for 19 days. He survived, but his injuries included the loss of hearing in one ear, the loss of part of his left lung, mild brain damage, and his eyes were damaged by shrapnel. He is slowly going blind.

But before he loses his sight, his vision for the future is to make a difference.

On June 19, Simpson set sail on a 2,120-mile solo race from San Francisco to Hanalei Bay in the 2010 Singlehanded Transpac Sailing Race. The event is organized by the Singlehanded Sailing Society to provide opportunities for singlehanded sailors to share experiences and compete in races.

Simpson’s goal is to raise funds and awareness for Hope for the Warriors, a national nonprofit organization committed to meeting the needs of combat-wounded U.S. servicemembers, their families and the families of those killed in action.

“I was racing not for personal glory, but to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, while partnering with a national nonprofit that works with wounded combat veterans and their families,” he said.

The war veteran is sailing in a boat named Warrior’s Wish and is communicating with friends and family through a daily blog.

“Simpson is truly an inspiring example of a wounded hero who has found hope beyond recovery,” says Don Gray, chairman of the Hope For The Warriors board. “Ronnie’s commitment not just to this race but to his fellow wounded heroes is impressive. He is a leader among combat veterans and sailors alike.”

The crossing is full of ever-changing conditions and challenges. On June 24, Simpson blogged: “For the first time in this trip, I feel as if I’m actually racing toward Hawaii. I no longer feel that I’m just sailing around in the ocean. The breeze is filling in and clocking back to its normal direction, and it’s becoming warmer and blue.”

Four days later on June 28: “I would need to look back through the SH Transpac records, but I think this may very well go down as the slowest SH Transpac in history.”

On July 6 he reached Hanalei. “Was crossing the line in Kauai the best single moment in my life?” he blogged. “It’s a distinct possibility. That very moment was the realization of a dream.”

But his goals don’t stop there. Ultimately he wants to help other wounded soldiers reach their dreams through sailing programs. He says sailing has helped him cope with depression. In 2008, he attempted to sail to Hawaii alone but a hurricane left him stranded on the open ocean.

This time he was not to be denied.

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