How Surfing Is Helping to Heal Wounded Warriors

Mind and Body / Fox News

The Healing Powers of the Ocean

From PTSD to traumatic brain injuries, the wounds of war can run very deep, and while traditional therapies can help; sometimes all it takes is a surfboard and a day out on the ocean to begin the healing process

To the outside world, it looked like Jimmy Miller had it all. He was a competitive surfer living in a beach community in California; he was a world traveler and was even married to a supermodel. In his brother’s words – he had it all going on.

“He lived the ideal life,” Jeff Miller told “He had tons of friends, not just locally, but all over the world. He was a pretty happy guy.”

But around Jimmy’s 35th birthday, everything started to change when he sustained a shoulder injury that took him out of the water.

“It went from something is a little strange to ‘Wow, we need to find some help for him,’ to he’s in an institution, and he’s getting better,” Miller said.

But Jimmy never did recover and he ended up taking his life in August 2005.

“It was the heaviest thing that my family and friends had ever gone through,” Miller said. “No one could believe it. When somebody dies, especially when they die too young, we wanted to do something to commemorate him.”

To keep Jimmy’s passion for surfing alive, Miller and his family started The Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation, which is an adaptive surfing program to help individuals “coping with mental and physical illness.”

The first couple of years, the foundation worked mainly with kids, but soon they saw another group in need, who they thought would greatly benefit from this one-of-a-kind sport.

“My family has some ties to the military. My grandfather was a lifetime Navy man, and he was actually on the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor,” Miller, who’s president of the foundation, said. “So we have some pretty strong feelings about the military— and around the time when there was negative press about the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, we did some research, and found that our program could help them.”

In the summer of 2007, the foundation launched ocean therapy sessions to serve Marines with the Wounded Warrior Battalion-West division located at Camp Pendleton, Calif., which boasts miles and miles of untouched coastline.

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By Elise M. Howard Photo: A Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation volunteer instructs veterans during an ocean therapy session. JMMF hosts at least three military ocean therapy sessions per month in

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