Once an avid surfer, former Marine Jorge Ortiz can enjoy the surf again, thanks to Freedom Alliance.
The nonprofit organization presented the local veteran with a motorized surfboard during a Troop Appreciation Dinner for roughly 30 injured service members and their families Feb. 28 at Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Carmel Valley.
“To see him receive such an incredible gift that I know he’s going to use so well and take full advantage of was a very rewarding, humbling experience,” said Sgt. Reece Lodder, a friend of Ortiz’s who works as the marketing, advertising and public relations director for the Marine Corps recruiting station in Seattle and also serves as a combat correspondent for the Marines.
Lodder first met Ortiz in 2009, when they went through training together in Maryland. When they completed training, they were assigned to different infantry units and deployed to Afghanistan, Ortiz in 2010 and Lodder in 2011.
Ortiz lost both his legs and several fingers to an IED blast in Afghanistan in January 2011.
“After that, we just stayed in touch,” Lodder said. “Jorge and I have become pretty close.”
Having connections to Freedom Alliance, Lodder called the organization to make a special request: a motorized surfboard for his friend. Ortiz had been an avid surfer before he sustained his injuries.
“We have a great team at Freedom Alliance,” said Thomas Kilgannon, president of Freedom Alliance. “They researched it, tracked it down, and then it all culminated in a very moving and special ceremony amongst his friends and those who’ve been there with him every step of the way.
“It is always an honor and a privilege to meet people like Jorge,” Kilgannon added. “He’s humble, he’s quiet, he’s a hero. But he doesn’t think of himself as one — the rest of us do.”
Freedom Alliance holds Troop Appreciation Dinners in restaurants across the country several times each year.
Based just outside of Washington D.C. in Virginia, Freedom Alliance was founded in 1990 by former Marines Lt. Col. Oliver North and the late Lt. Gen. Edward J. Bronars. The charitable and educational organization sponsors a variety of programs to support and honor service members and their families.
Freedom Alliance has awarded more than $10 million in college scholarships to the children of killed or disabled service members. The organization awards more than $1 million in scholarships annually, with 300 students currently on scholarships.
Freedom Alliance also supports injured veterans and military families with care packages for deployed troops, all-terrain wheel chairs, outdoor recreational therapy trips, vacations and much more.
“Organizations like Freedom Alliance are very important because they help all Americans recognize the sacrifices of those who have either lost friends or family members, or who have had friends or family members be seriously injured while serving their country,” Lodder said. “I’m very grateful to see that the follow on care is not only being provided by military members but also by private citizen groups that come together for no other reason than to just recognize those sacrifices and to assist with continued care and recovery. It’s a real blessing to have.”
For more about Freedom Alliance or to donate, visit freedomalliance.org.