Aloha Spirit Connects Marine Wounded Warrior with Surfboard

Marine Corps Base Hawaii and Camp Pendleton-  John Bates, USMC ret. has been there and done that for our country.  His life story involves receiving three purple hearts from three different combat engagements and life threatening wounds.  Wounds that were ultimately severe enough to earn him a Naval Medical Board medical retirement.

The problem... Sergeant Bates didn't want to stop being an active duty United States Marine!

After nearly seven years of physical and educational rehabilitation as a civilian the Naval Medical Board and Marine Corps gave him the thumbs up to rejoin the ranks… provided he pass officer candidate school!  Thirty-three plus years and three wars later, Colonel John Bates retired from active duty USMC Service due to the DoD mandatory age retirement requirement.

As a veteran, the Colonel continued to serve, volunteering amongst other duties with the Marine Wounded Warrior Regiment detachment West - Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe Bay.  For Colonel Bates it was easy to relate to badly wounded Marines… he was one.

One day a severely wounded Marine joined the Colonel's mentoring group. "This Marine showed up and I knew instantly that he was a 'Poster Marine' for everything the unit was working to accomplish.  This young Marine just wouldn't quit trying to get better, stronger… back in the fight." recalls Col. Bates, "I found myself getting motivated by his attitude. He not only ended up fighting his way back, but is now serving with one of the finest units in our entire Department of Defense - USMC 1st Reconnaissance Battalion at Camp Pendleton."

Navy Chief Matthew Tatum
This coming week, American300 will be again teaming up with Colonel Bates to mentor troops, but thanks to a Navy Chief and his surfboard building abilities a very special wounded warrior will be recognized back at Pendleton as well.  "I was out at MCBH with another American300 Tour over Memorial Day and ended up doing PT (Physical Training) with a group of Naval Aviators.  After the workout I got talking with the Chief who was leading the PT Session and it turned out he builds custom surfboards as a hobby" said Robi Powers, Veteran and founder of American300 Tours "I thought it'd be cool if we could get a Navy Chief to build a board for a Marine Wounded Warrior, since the two branches share K Bay."

Powers discussed the idea with Colonel Bates, who immediately said he had a deserving Marine that he'd worked with for several years at KBay.  The only issue was that the Marine was no longer there, he'd moved out of the Wounded Warrior Regiment and was back within the ranks at Camp Pendleton and the 1st Recon Marine.

American300's Robi Powers and John Bates
With the recommendation in hand and offer by Navy Chief Matthew Tatum to build a board the pieces fell into place… or more appropriately… the board started to get shaped.

This weeks visit to MCBH will feature Colonel Bates and Powers conducting American300 mentoring sessions with members of Navy Chief Tatum's  aviation team as well as MCBH Marines and Hickam AFB Airmen.    The two American300 mentors will then fly to San Diego and spend a day with Captain Steven Uziel's 1st Platoon Alpha Company, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion Marines at Camp Pendleton.  "Chief Tatum put his heart and soul into the creation of this custom board. It's going to be a huge honor to present it to Marine Sergeant Matthew Koetting at the end of the day spent with his unit." says Powers. "I just wish operational tempo allowed us to bring Chief Tatum out with us as well, but we've promised to take lots of pictures and some video of the presentation for him."

It's not very often that American300 engages in surfboard building, but it's clear that the Aloha 'Shaka' Spirit of friendship, understanding, compassion and solidarity is going to be alive and well during this upcoming American300 Tour thanks to a Navy Chief and outstanding young Marine.

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American300 Tours is an all volunteer nonprofit 501c3 with a mission of increasing the resiliency of our Armed Forces Community through mentor based engagements.  The surfboard that will be presented to Sergeant Koetting, USMC will be issued to him by American300 and remain the property of American300 with no federal endorsement of sponsors or nonprofit implied or intended.

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