TAMPA, Fla. — Retired Special Forces Master Sgt. George Vera was worried he’d never be able to paddleboard again.
In 2015, he was injured while on active duty in Afghanistan and was left paralyzed from the waist down.
Five years later, a return to the water is possible due to a custom made paddleboard.
“We tried to make it as easy to deploy as possible,” said Brent Koehlhoeffer with Sofwerx.
Vera couldn’t wait to check out every detail as the finishing touches were still being applied.
“Oh this thing is nice, I can’t wait to get on it, it’s super nice, I can tell they put a lot of time and effort into it too,” said Vera.
The Ybor City company is used to designing state-of-the-art machinery and equipment for the military, but this mission was a little different.
“Probably the most rewarding thing that you could ever do, just knowing just what he’s gone through just for our freedom especially,” said Koehlhoeffer.
Vera was shot four times while on active duty during his fifth deployment to Afghanistan. Physically, he was left unable to move his legs, but mentally he was as more motivated than ever.
“Don’t let your injury or your illness define you as a person and keep you locked down you should keep moving forward,”said Koehlhoerffer.
Sofwerx pointed out all the organizations and companies that came together to make this gift possible, led by Black Dagger Military Hunt Club. Each one was responsible for a different portion of the board.
“I’m usually pretty good at adapting and figuring things out so this is a big opportunity for me because I really love the water and I’m ready to get back out there,” said Vera.
Vera said he’s thankful to live in a community willing to go that extra mile for their veterans.
“Once we found out I was getting this, my wife and my daughter both bought paddleboards so now we’ll be able to go out as a family,” said Vera. “I'll be able to get out there and just relax and collect my thoughts and stuff like that.”