NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- Joel Maymi struggles to talk about how he was injured while serving in the U.S. Army.
On Sunday, a better memory from his time in the military came to mind after surfing the waves.
"It brings back memories of when I was stationed in Hawaii," the 30-year-old Tampa resident said. "I used to go to the beach like every weekend."
Maymi said he still has pain in his leg and back from nerve damage as well as post traumatic stress disorder from his time in Iraq.
He was among a group of about 40 veterans who hit the water Sunday morning in New Smyrna Beach under mostly blue skies for an event put on by Wounded Warrior Project and the Oceans of Hope Foundation.
"A lot of veterans, unfortunately, especially injured veterans, end up self-isolating," said Bryan Higham, outreach coordinator with Wounded Warrior Project. "This is an opportunity to come out and do something fun, be around other veterans, help rebuild some of that camaraderie."
Camaraderie was also brought up by Maymi.
"You spend time with all your people that you share the same bond with, went through the same experiences," he said. "You build that camaraderie that you don't get from everyday life, from your everyday grinding job, you don't get that like you do when you were in the Army. So being around people like this and events like this bring back all those good memories."
New Smyrna Beach's volunteer-run Oceans of Hope Foundation takes people with disabilities surfing.
"These guys have given so much and it's just so important to demonstrate how much we care," said Chris Sharpe, the foundation's co-founder. "A lot of these folks have issues with post-traumatic stress and they're dealing with a whole host of issues that frankly I can't even understand. I wish there was more I could do."
Higham said this is the second time Wounded Warrior Project has partnered with the Oceans of Hope Foundation.
"We've done surfing events and things in the past, but we haven't been able to necessarily cater to all the different injuries (before partnering with Oceans of Hope Foundation)," he said.
Navy veteran Alyssa Cook also surfed during the event.
"I used to surf in San Diego," Cook said. "I have really bad balance issues ever since my head injury and I didn't think I'd be able to get in the water again like this."
Being in the water was a big part of the Orlando resident's life before her injury. She said before joining the Navy she worked on a cruise ship.
"To actually be in the water again, to be on a surfboard, just makes me feel free and I didn't think I could actually ever be on a surfboard again," Cook said. ___
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