Combat veterans take part in historic sailing to Cuba from St. Petersburg

Posted at 5:56 PM, Feb 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-27 17:56:24-05

This year's Havana Regatta Yacht Race will be the first in nearly 60 years. The race born again as the relations between Cuba and the United States have gotten better.

Kathy Champion will be one of the people participating in the race.

Sailing is nothing new to her as she has been sailing since she was a child. 

Despite her decades of experience, her sailing trip from St. Petersburg to Cuba will be no easy task.  Kathy says she is up for the 360 mile, 48-hour challenge anyway.

Because when you really look at it, it’s not even close to the hardest thing she has endured.

“During combat, I was injured by a roadside bomb and then I returned home.  When I came home; unfortunately, they found that I had a virus,” says Retired Army Lt. Col. Kathy Champion.  “The virus attacked my immune system, which also attacked my optic nerves.”

That virus left Champion, who had served her country for 27 years, blind.

It’s like she never missed a beat though. She is in St. Petersburg preparing for the Havana Regatta Yacht Race starting Tuesday with the Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge. An organization that helps injured veterans with prosthetics, traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.

There are 70 boats in the race and two of them will be manned by wounded veterans in the one-of-a-kind program.

“The research that they gather from each of the events people [veterans] participate in and the data they gather can further help other returning veterans that have similar issues,” says Champion.

Her team made of all-American heroes who sacrificed so much.

“I always say it gives us an opportunity to be normal again,” says Champion.



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