A message from the
I began my military career in 1986 when I enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard. In 1994, I transitioned to the U.S. Navy, attached to the Marine Corps’ Marine Expeditionary Unit, before serving as a Boatswain’s Mate with the Navy Cargo Handling and Port Group at Cheatham Annex, Williamsburg, VA. NAVCHAPGRU is a rapid response, forward deployed operational logistics support unit that is trained to load and unload Navy and Marine Corps cargo from various ships and aircraft.
In 1999, while deployed in Turkey, I was crushed by an Abrams tank as it was being offloaded of a naval ship. After returning home, I had several procedures and surgeries, inevitably having a metal rod fused to my lower spine and losing the sensation in my left leg and foot. In 2004, I was honorably discharged for medical reasons from the Navy.
Since my medical discharge, I received a Permanent and Total Disability rating from the VA. Without the ability to hold employment, I subsequently developed a sense of hopelessness, and was diagnosed with PTSD and Depression. The medications I was prescribed to treat my dwindling mental health made me feel even more disconnected from my family, friends, and the world around me.
I started racing sailboats as a way to cope with my pain and my emotions, and quickly realized how other veterans with similar experiences were interested in an alternative to a never-ending supply of pills. In 2018, I partnered with several friends and sailors in the Chesapeake Bay Region to launch Forward Sailing.
Since then, Forward Sailing acquired eight Tarten 10 sailboats. By providing a one-design, consistent experience from boat to boat, we hope to provide novice sailors, or those with disabilities, a worry-free sailing experience. In addition to our racing boats, we also have one O’Day cruising sailboat and one Key-Largo watersport boat in our fleet.
Forward Sailing’s goal is to provide an outlet for service members, veterans, and their families a chance to get underway and re-experience a level of camaraderie often diminished after separating from the service. Since launching, we have shared the therapeutic experience of sailboat racing with The Blind Veterans of America, and veterans in the Hampton Roads and Richmond, VA area who experience Depression and PTSD.
I am pleased to announce that October 2019 we received tax-exempt status from the IRS and were officially recognized as a non-profit. Now that we can receive tax-deductible donations from generous contributions from across the country, we hope to expand our reach by partnering with local colleges, yacht clubs, and veterans organizations to bring the experience of sailing to those throughout the Chesapeake and Delaware Bay regions.
Mark F. Bellino
Chairman, Forward Sailing
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Phone: (609) 495-5716