MANATEE -- It's been a difficult recovery for Ramesh Haytsingh over the nearly three years since a surfing accident left him with his neck broken in two places, his shoulder thrown out and two cracked ribs.
Haytsingh, a U.S. Navy explosive ordnance disposal technician, was out on the water Saturday for just the second time since the accident enjoying a relaxing time with his boys, ages 7 and 8, who were fishing.
"It's so amazing," he said.
About 50 wounded warriors spent a morning kayaking in Jiggs Landing Fish Camp, 6106 63rd St. E., Bradenton, thanks to the Bradenton Sarasota chapter of the volunteer-run national organization Heroes on the Water.
Haytsingh said it's been difficult trying to restore normalcy to his life after lots of rehab, surgery, a voice implant and getting out of a wheelchair. Heroes on the Water helps him regain some of the independence he lost in the accident. He's also grateful it gives his wife a break, he said.
Haytsingh, who served eight combat tours in his
nearly 17-year career, said he thanks God for muscle memory. He is now able to walk despite having no sensation in the left side of his lower body.
"God bless the Navy for keeping me in," he said.
He didn't do any fishing Saturday, but still enjoyed a morning filled with smiles and laughter as he watched two of his sons fish. His injury had been rough on them, he said, and his 17-year-old adopted son, so being able to get on the water with them was special.
"When we are all together we don't argue or bicker," Haytsingh said. "I'm just so happy to be alive and that this organization provides this."
Through the kayak fishing outings, Heroes on the Water helps wounded warriors relax, rehabilitate, and reintegrate.
"When they are on the water, they are relaxed," local organizer Raul Casas said. "They are in charge of their own little ship."
Casas, 61, Nokomis, said up to 25 percent of the veterans who participate have several injuries, and the kayak gives them a sense of independence. Even those paralyzed or with missing limbs can kayak with paddles or the pedal kayaks as needed.
In addition to the natural calming affects of the water, he said, it allows them to enjoy nature.
"It's just a beautiful park," he said of the renovated Jiggs Landing.
The group really enjoyed the experience, he said.
"A lot of them were there for the first," Casas said. "They really enjoyed it and they are coming back."
The group organizes kayak trips roughly every six weeks in various locations, he said.
"We encourage family members also," Casas added. "Spouses and children are really part of the reintegration process."
After the kayaking, the group enjoyed lunch together. The organization raises money locally to make it all possible.
For more information visit facebook.com/HeroesOnTheWaterSarasota.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.