Past Challenges

Sailing Challenge April 17 – 24, 2021

The 2021 Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge (CWVC) sailing event met or exceeded everyone’s expectations. Sea Star Base Galveston (SSBG), the best sailing facility of its kind in the country, again hosted the challenge for wounded and injured veterans of all military branches. CWVC is a non-profit organization that strives to improve the lives of veterans by providing challenging expeditions in austere environments and conducting research to advance the care and treatment of veterans with physical, neurological, and psychological injuries. The Sailing Challenge’s purposes were to provide a one-week sail training camp for wounded and injured veterans in Sonar-class sailboats and conduct research into the effectiveness of such events to improve the lives of these injured veterans and their families, Participants included families and caregivers, and activities included sailing, fishing, swimming, dining on-site, a “dining out”, and chalk-talks on sailing. We had 18 injured veterans, numerous volunteer support folks from Combat Wounded, and about six families and caregivers. Dave Gaston organized and supervised the Challenge on behalf of SSBG, and he led the volunteer support for the seven days. Deb Pawlowski, Dave Caras, and Laura Root led CWVC planning and execution efforts.

Drs. Cheryl Lowry and Brian Pinkston performed the medical research (using the Montreal Cognitive Assessment – MOCA under the supervision and administration of an Institutional Review Board (IRB). Their conclusions are expected to reinforce CWVC’s 2019 research results:

“Results of this small study indicate that this type of event may be the most beneficial to participants with TBI, given the 100% post-Challenge score improvement by participants who had TBI (without PTSD).”

This small study shows proven effectiveness for the Sailing Challenge to benefit veterans.

Remarks from the wounded and injured veterans include:

“Felt accepted and was able to escape some of the stress in my life and focus on something that I love with people who I adore. That was exactly what I needed!”

“The amount of ‘feeling at home or non-judgment’ environment was PRICELESS. It meant the world to me to take a break from people who do not understand me to people who ‘get me.’ In the same situation … at various levels of disability … but all of us had the same mindset, which isn’t met with most civilian friends.”

“Realizing you’re not alone is a huge hurdle in helping yourself. Once you get that perspective & move your thinking from yourself, you get the chance to look forward & take it to help the next veteran find their own help.”

“My anxiety and stress decreased, and I feel stronger, healthier, and more confident.”

“Learning about “wind awareness” was very enjoyable. I started to view the wind as the circumstances of my life, a reality to be worked with and not against. When I got home and had time to think about the experience, I realized I had learned so much more than sailing during my stay in Galveston.”

“You’re not just teaching me how to sail, you are teaching me how to enjoy life again.”

A toast can often express, “It’s not what’s on the table that counts but who’s in the chairs.” This year, in honor of CWVC’s deceased former board member Jay Katzen, CWVC presented leadership awards to David Caras and Laura Root. Laura and Dave “counted” when making this Challenge successful.

Jay Katzen (August 23, 1936 – April 9, 2020) was a diplomat, business consultant, state legislator, and government agency administrator, and former President of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation and served United States Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower through George H.W. Bush. His positions included White House translator and U.S. representative to the United Nations, and chargé d’affairs ad interim to Congo (Brazzaville). He was Chairman of the Board of the Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge. CWVC was honored to present this award to Laura and Dave; these two veterans planned and coordinated CWVC’s logistics, recruitment, and sail training prior to and during the Sailing Challenge. Each Challenge participant benefited directly from Laura’s and Dave’s hands-on leadership in this year’s successful challenge.

Jay Katzen Leadership Award recipients with their service dogsLaura and Dave with their Jay Katzen Leadership Awards
(and with their service dogs Chewie and Bobb)