Coming home from war can be a difficult transition for soldiers. 39-year-old former Marine Corps Captain Ben Mercier suffered from a bout of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) upon returning from his deployment to Iraq.
"I was just different," Mercier said in an interview with ABC News. "I didn't know at the time that I had [PTSD] and I was drinking more than I should have."
In 2009, Mercier medically retired due to multiple injuries he sustained in the line of duty as a marine. "I had injuries in my back, knees, ankles and traumatic brain injury," he told ABC News. "I wanted to stay in the Marines and I fought my way until they said 'no, you're done.'"
Mercier started having trouble coping with everyday life after his time serving as a marine, and eventually began treatment for PTSD. "I started to have nightmares. I didn't trust people. I was drinking more," he said. "I've been through about eight years of therapy. I don't go anymore because it doesn't help me anymore."
What does help him is bodysurfing. The time outside in the ocean helps Mercier handle his PTSD and takes him somewhere where he is comfortable. The marine spent much of his time growing up either in the pool swimming or in the ocean bodysurfing. He even swam for the University of Hawai'i in college in the 1990s. "I love bodysurfing, being in the ocean. It is just natural and you get an awesome workout," he said. "It helps me physically with my injuries and mentally with my PTSD. It is like being free in the water."
Mercier teamed up with another former captain and President of the Hawaii State Bodysurfing Association club, Al Baldera, to start the annual Pyramid Rock Bodysurfing Championship eight years ago. Proceeds from the event each year go to the U.S. Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment. "I still want to be in touch with the military and I love doing this contest and I would love to do more in the future,” Mercier said.
(PC: Greg Rice)
(PC: Ben Mercier via ABC News