America Supports You: Two Texans to Swim for Wounded Vets
By Paul X. Rutz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 31, 2006 This July, two military men plan to become the 16th and 17th Americans to swim the Strait of Gibraltar, raising funds in the process for troops disabled in recent action overseas.
David Broyles and Rush Vann of Austin, Texas, expect to swim the 12.5 miles of Mediterranean waters from the southern coast of Spain to Morocco to help draw public support for America's wounded heroes, according to a press release.
"As a pararescueman in Iraq, my job was to save lives," Broyles said in an open letter. "I'm no longer in Iraq and I'm no longer a pararescueman, but many of my fellow veterans still need help."
Both Broyles and Vann have military connections. Broyles is an Air Force veteran, having completed missions in Afghanistan as well as Iraq. Vann is a member of the Texas Army National Guard.
The two swimmers have partnered with the "Coalition to Salute America's Heroes," a national nonprofit group that aims to help rebuild the lives of troops disabled while serving in the war on terror. The group is accepting donations on the Web at: www.swimthestrait06.com toward a goal of $100,000. So far, the effort has raised about $20,000.
The coalition is a member of "America Supports You," a Defense Department program that highlights grassroots and corporate support of America's servicemembers and their families.
"We are proud of David and Rush for their ambition to assist our nation's disabled heroes," Ray Clifford, the coalition's vice president, said. "We wish them every success with their swim and know that it will honor the lives of those who served our country and because of their severe injuries, face difficult recoveries."
Broyles said he believes when the nation's disabled troops return to America, they deserve the same level of support as they had in the field during the critical moments after which they were first wounded. Raising that awareness, along with money for their cause, is the swimmers' main goal.
"When I left Iraq, I left with my good health. The nearly 18,000 wounded Americans were less fortunate," he said. "The swim is symbolic of the challenge faced by thousands of disabled veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq who now fight their most difficult battles of recovery."
Broyles and Vann will attempt the swim some time between July 11 and 21.