SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - When wounded veterans return home from war, the San Diego Naval Medical Center has the daunting task of repairing their broken bodies. One of the hospital's most successful therapy programs is their Warrior Athlete Surf Clinic.
Before you cringe at amputees taking a beating in the surf, remember Marines like Red Ramos consider themselves lucky to only lose part of their leg.
"It's nothing if you lose one leg below the knee, it's really a paper cut, is how you'll hear everybody say it," Red said.
Just ask Carlos Garcia. He's the Marine paddling out with the huge smile on his face.
"As you can see I'm a double-amputee from the explosion," he said.
Carlos says one magical ride, and memories of exploding IEDs fade away.
"It lets you be normal. You stop worrying about your injuries," he said.
Nico Marcolongo with the Challenged Atheletes Foundation says this program has grown from one veteran to 40.
"I'm very proud to be here. I'm honored and humbled to be here, to be part of this process," Marcolongo said.
Strength, balance and fun are all part of a healthy recovery.
"Some days you go out and you don't know what's going to happen," Stuart Fuke said.
A Navy medic, Stuart was shot in the leg in Afghanistan and admits he should have learned to surf years ago.
"I'm from Hawaii and I never done it once," he said.
Volunteer Allen Mitchell has surfed for 50 years, and says the most memorable waves of his life are for heroes, not him.
"There's a lot of satisfaction. Like I say, when you see somebody who doesn't have a lot to smile about, all of a sudden they catch a wave and their first wave, and they got that smile on their face," Allen said.
The veterans themselves have a hard time explaining it, but say what the battlefield took away, the ocean gives back.
"Absolutely no idea that you're injured when you're out there, you just feel normal, and it just feels good," Carlos said.
The therapy sessions are open to the public, so if you want to come down and root these veterans on, they are in Del Mar on 20th Street from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Thursday.
Two of the veterans we interviewed are not only surfing buddies, but connected by the battlefield. Carlos Garcia says Stuart Fuke saved his life and will now be the godfather to his child.