Posted: 12th November 2012 by Danielle in Journal

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St. John was a beautiful place. We were based in the campgrounds of Cinnamon Bay on the island of St. John. This island is approximately two-thirds National Park, and surrounded by stunning beaches and tropical coral reefs. The ocean was as warm as bath water and as clear as glass. Since a majority of the island is devoted to the National Park, the bigger bays or towns are located on each end of the island. Our campgrounds were smack dab in the middle.
Our agenda for the week consisted of…
Waking up to the sound of the ocean waves beating against the shore.
Eating breakfast.
Rounding up our gear for the day (snorkels, fins, goggles…)
Packing lunches and filling up our water jugs.
Picking out which prosthetics we wanted to try out for that given day. By the end of the trip we found our favorite system and stuck with that; which made for a much lighter bag of parts and pieces needed for kayaking and snorkeling.
Load up the boats and go!

Because of the price of electricity on the island, most of the locals go without air conditioning and our campground at Cinnamon Bay was no exception. This was our first experience camping and it came with a few lessons learned. Prosthetics do not mix well with sand, salt water, and the humidity. We tried to keep them as clean as possible. Scrubbing the prosthetics and their liners clean quickly became part of our daily agenda. Instead of the traditional kayak paddles, Taylor and his prosthesis created full paddling arms. The arms worked great. Taylor and I were able to keep up just fine with the other paddlers. Every day we had a new destination to paddle to and snorkel. The reefs were beautiful and the wild life was stunning. We saw turtles, string rays, fish, lobsters, jelly fish, squid, and even sharks! Half way through the day we would break for lunch. We would eat our sandwiches and snacks we had made that morning and packed into our dry bag for the day. After lunch it was time to lay out, hang out, or do some more snorkeling if you hadn’t gotten your fill. The relaxing environment was the perfect atmosphere to take a load off sooth the mind. In the late afternoon we would suit up and paddle back to the campgrounds. Every night a different restaurant supplied our group of 22 with dinner. Followed by live music, movie night, or game night with Catch Phrase.

Guest Speaker on movie night. Homer Hickem the author of the book Rocket Boys, which was later made into the movie October Sky.

One of the day we paddled our kayaks into town where we grabbed dinner at a local hot spot and enjoyed a couple of drinks overlooking Cruz Bay. It was fun to interact with the islanders who were so supportive of wounded warriors and veterans. It seemed that everyone knew our group was on the island and wanted to stop over to express their gratitude. These islanders are the people who made this trip a possibility. We felt equally thankful for their generosity.
< It was a great get away. Taylor and I decided we would love to go back but the island life may not be for us for a few reasons. Sand and prosthetics don’t work well. Salt water and prosthetics don’t work well together. Humidity not only makes Taylor’s body that is running at a higher level sweat profusely but also makes his Myo-Electric arm freak out! Mosquito bites with no finger nails to scratch are enough to make Taylor loose his mind.Camping has brought on new challenges and obstacles, an adventure we used to love, but we figured out a way to make it happen. Just like every obstacle that comes our way, we have to figure out a new way to accomplish the task at hand. We will be back St. John, you have got us hooked on your beautiful scenery and fun atmosphere!
I mean this is the view from the plane as we were leaving…How could we not want to go back!!



  1. John and Nichole Dubuisson says:

    Welcome home guys… We have been wondering how you guys were surviving the camping life again.. St. John’s is an awesome and beautiful place to relax and just re-set your mind and body… Hope you are not too sad tomorrow when you realize it’s gone for now and your back to normal life again..lol… Take care and GOD BLESS… J&N

  2. Bruce Braley says:

    Glad you had fun … Despite some of the obstacles.

    Nice shout-out from the Commander-in-Chief during the Veterans’ Day Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. All Iowans are proud of your inspirational story of determination and resilience.

  3. Chris Kilburg says:

    Welcome Home!!! So happy for both of you to enjoy your get a way! LOVED the pictures of you two beautiful people with the other vacationers..

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