ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Riverview resident Sammy Lugo can’t imagine life without sailing.
“When you are out there, what gets you, is you really leave everything behind.”
Out on the water, it’s a long way from Baghdad. That’s where a road side bomb took his left leg below the knee and changed his life forever. But it didn’t lessen his desire to stay active.
“It was tough being at the hospital at Walter Reed, we did a lot of different sports. Tried hand cycling which was what I could do really at that point in time."
He tried golf and volleyball too. But then four years ago, the Army veteran found sailing and the Warriors Sailing Program, founded in St. Petersburg.
Sailing pros spend a few days teaching wounded veterans the sport at no cost. Sammy started as a student, but now he’s a teacher.
“For him to come and give back to the community, to give back to the veteran group that he really comes from. It’s really important to him too,” said program director Ben Poucher.
“It’s more of a therapeutic thing. We got out there. We talk a lot. Obviously here it’s more instructional. But we also do talk about our experiences being in the military to get over that little hump some people might be stuck on,” said Lugo.
Sammy reminds the other vets, he was a beginner once too, and had a hard time getting around on the boat. Now he travels the world, sharing what he knows.
“It becomes second nature, whether you are competing or just sailing around.”
Veterans can check eligibility and sign up at warriorsailing.org.