Service members take to the ocean at the Na Koa Wounded Warrior Canoe Regatta

Published On: Aug 16 2014 05:56:03 PM HST   Updated On: Aug 16 2014 07:50:53 PM HST

One of the highlights of the Duke OceanFest on Saturday was the Na Koa Wounded Warrior Canoe Regatta. Each canoe was manned by American service members at Fort DeRussy.

Click here to watch Nana Ohkawa's report.

Army Col. Greg Gadson, the grand marshal of the event, raced for the first time in an outrigger canoe. He lost both his legs while serving in Baghdad. He's one of many wounded warriors in the races overcoming challenges in life.

"The guys that helped me in the canoe, it's inspiring because they are so willing, so enthusiastic about it. It makes you feel like (you're not) a burden, you feel proud to be a part of it," said Gadson.

The healing begins in the water, Wounded Warrior Project organizers said. Those with severe physical disabilities see what they can achieve, which gets their minds off hospital stays.

Some invisible scars also begin to heal.

"When you have mental injuries, the invisible wounds of war, it's peaceful out in the water. You have the support of the team and that helps you mentally and emotionally heal," said Steven Nardizzi, CEO of Wounded Warrior Project.

"I felt normal. I was paddling, I was contributing, and that's all that matters. It's about taking on life and recognizing that life goes on, and you may have to do things differently, but how is that not normal," said Gadson.

Competitions begin at 7 a.m Sunday. You can check out the Honolua Surf Ultimate SUP showdown in Waikiki.


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