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thedrifter
02-18-07, 11:11 AM
Marines 'Battle' for Fallen, Wounded
Julia Norton-Dennis - jlittle@kgmb9.com

Today Pyramid Rock Beach in Marine Corps Base Hawaii-Kaneohe became a battlefield and bobbing heads in the water were the troops. But instead of harsh desert sand, rockets blasting and choppers flying overhead, there was a soft beach, blue water and challenging waves.

This is the first-ever Pyramid Rock Body Surfing Championship, a benefit for fallen and wounded marines and their families.

Capt. Ben Mercier of the 3rd Marines came up with the idea.

"The goal right now, I think we should be able to raise about $5,000, I'm hoping," Mercier said.

"Most of the Marines are serving overseas and it's very difficult," said Col. Gregory Boyle, Commanding Officer, 3rd Marines. "You can send care packages out there to support them, but this is another unique way to be able to do it right here, come out here to the base and support the wounded and fallen Marines."

So the battle on the beach begins. The competition is fierce. The conditions are rough and there are even a few battle scars.

"Hopefully, I'll go to the semi-finals and the finals. I got three good big waves," Mercier said after finishing his heat.

Here, everyone wins - the Marines, their families, the community.

Competitor Kimo Makaio has been body surfing for about 10 years. He's in the contest to "just have fun, that's it."

Sarah Herrington was a little nervous. "I've been surfing for about six years, and this is actually my first contest for body surfing, so I'm excited," Herrington said as she waited on the beach.

Although nearly 100 Kaneohe-based Marines have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, Col. Boyle says morale among his troops is still high.

"These young people, they know what they're facing. They're raising their right hand, they know what's waiting for them down range. They come into the service to support their country to support their Corps," Boyle said.

And back at home, a bodysurfing championship becomes a tribute.

Ellie