News: Wounded warrior gets ‘X-T.R.E.M.E.’ in Hawaii
Story by Lance Cpl. Nathan Knapke
HONOLULU - People show appreciation in many ways. Some donate money, time, food or personal belongings, but then there are those who take giving back to a whole new level.
A team of volunteers called “Team X-T.R.E.M.E” made a commitment to help our nation’s wounded heroes. They are a nonprofit organization with a mission too.
“Our mission is to honor, empower and motivate wounded veterans through a physical and mental rehabilitative cycle that is a model for overcoming adversity and hardship through innovation, teamwork and perseverance,” said Jeremy Soles, a member of Team X-T.R.E.M.E.
U.S. Marine Cpl. Josh Sams, from Wilmington, Ohio, served three tours in Afghanistan, two as an infantryman, and his last tour as a scout sniper. During a combat patrol he was wounded by an improvised explosive device, losing both legs and breaking his pelvis and arm.
Sams came to Hawaii for an extreme vacation he would never forget.
Team X-T.R.E.M.E wanted to help Sams by making a few of his dreams come true for all that he has sacrificed for our country.
The “Extreme” vacation started Nov. 29 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on the Admiral’s Tour and the Diving Board Adventures Tour. The tours consisted of an introduction to the area, a description and history of the various ships lost Dec. 7, 1941, during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
After getting acquainted with the area, Sams along with Team X-T.R.E.M.E. headed out to see the USS Arizona memorial where they explored the memorial and viewed the remains of the ship resting below them.
“I couldn’t help putting myself in the situation of being attacked and wondering what it would have felt like,” Sams said while touring the memorial. “The attack was at 8 a.m. during a 72-hour liberty holiday, most of the men were attacked while resting from a rough night."
Sams and the team stopped for some dinner at the end of the tour, replenishing their energy for what was still to come on this X-T.R.E.M.E. vacation.
Team X-T.R.E.M.E traveled to Waikiki, Nov. 30, for some scuba diving. Sams and the team took a boat to two separate dive sites. Once at the dive site, Sams geared up for his first scuba dive and made his way down the steps to the water. Once at the bottom of the ocean floor nearly 50 feet below the surface.
“I got to see fish of all colors of the rainbow and sea turtles that were almost as big as I am,” Sams said. “I also saw sea urchins, and got to swim all around the coral reef.”
Sams said this experience has exceeded all his expectations. Saturday provided an opportunity Sams had been looking forward to for a long time. He was going to go surfing. With the help of a program called “AccesSurf,” that help people with disabilities to surf in an unrestricted environment, he rode waves into the shore several times.
Once Sams made up his mind he was going to surf, there was no turning back. Sams said he wasn’t leaving until he accomplished his goal of riding some Hawaiian waves.
Sams and the team packed up their beach gear, thinking the day was over.
What Sams and the team didn’t know was that they were about to go skydiving in preparation for Sunday’s sky dive into the Xterra Trail Run World Championships at Kualoa Ranch. During the rehearsal, he jumped out of an airplane at 14,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean. After jumping out of the airplane and breaching through the clouds, he had a bird’s-eye view of the North Shore coastline.
“It’s the coolest thing ever,” Sams said. “There is nothing like the feeling of being weightless and the rush of skydiving. Once we broke through the clouds, we could see the waves break on the island shore from that viewpoint … It’s an experience I’ll never forget.”
Sams said his first jump was awesome and couldn’t wait to jump again.
He wouldn’t have to wait long because Sunday the stage was set for him to jump into what is considered by many of the local skydivers to be the best view of Hawaii.
Mike Elliot, a skydiver who conducted tandem jumping with Sams, said Sunday’s jump is in a valley between two mountain ranges where some of the movie “Jurassic Park” was filmed. He said he has jumped more than 10,000 times, and this jump is the most beautiful sight he has
Sams said during the five days on Oahu, the trip far exceeded everything he thought it was going to be. Sams credited Team X-T.R.E.M.E. for making everything possible.
“Extreme and awesome are key themes through out the trip ... they took it over the top,” said Sams.