Team JL Ambassador, Patrick Ward is a disabled United States Navy Veteran, injured while on Active Duty. He underwent 52 surgeries and the amputation of his right leg above the knee racking up a total of more than 2 years in the hospital. He has trained at the Miami Beach Rowing Club for the last 5 years, and currently holds Men’s PR2 World Records in the following: 1000, 2000, 5000, 6000, 10,000, one-hour set time (12765), and 21,097 meters.

In honor of Veterans Day 2022, we sat down with Pat to learn more about his journey from his high school dreams of being a rower, to becoming a PR2 athlete. Read below to learn more about his story, in a first-hand account by Pat.



All my life I wanted to be a rower, but life kept getting the way. From my junior year in high school up until the day I became a doctor in the Navy, school and work were my life.  In high school, on the few days I didn’t have to work you’d find me sitting on the banks of Cherry Creek Reservoir, just outside Denver, watching college and high school crew teams practice.  While doing my undergraduate at St. Louis University during fall semester I’d get a ride out to West County where crew teams from across Missouri came to compete.

While stationed at Bethesda Naval Hospital, I discovered a deserted service road that ran high above Rock Creek Parkway, overlooking the Potomac River where Georgetown University’s and Washington University’s crew teams practiced. Not only did I have a bird’s eye view, but the river’s stone walls and basin amplified sounds bouncing off the water. I could both see the rowers and hear the coaches barking out instructions to the rowers.  With duty stations like US Naval Academy Annapolis, Navy Base New Port Road Island, Monterey, and San Diego California, my dreams of rowing increased and my chances of ever being a rower deceased.  

While serving on Active Duty I was severely injured. In the blink of an eye, I lost everything I’d worked for my life. I lost my health, my wealth, and my future.  It’s impossible to dream when you’re barely holding on.  I was never going to be a rower.


You wake up one day and find that the life that you had, is no longer the life that you have. I loved my work and by all accounts I was extremely good at what I did. You see I was doing exactly what I’d always wanted to do with my life, and I was doing it with the people I wanted to be with. I was a Navy doctor, and I was happy.

Over the following days, weeks, months and even years after my injury it was surgery after surgery. Each trip to the Operating Room was deemed medically necessary, “Nothing to get alarmed about,” or so I was told.  I’d been seen and treated at some of the finest medical centers in this country, but I wasn’t getting better.

As I was being wheeled into another OR for the 40th time I asked God, no I told God, to let me go. Lucky #40 would be the most brutal and barbaric of all the prior surgeries put together in my eyes no better time than to call it a day. In my eyes #40 would be the last one. I stopped counting, I stopped asking and I stopped caring. I no longer recognized myself but worse than that I saw what all this was doing to the people I love. The strain and the pressure, the late nights at my bed side, as well as all nights. Many were beaten down and exhausted all thanks to me.

There are no words I can find that could give even a peak into the darkness and pain I woke up to after the amputation. Nothing could have prepared me for what was coming. The most horrific part of the amputation is finding out that it is two separate surgical procedures done a week to ten days apart. The pain was so incomprehensible I couldn’t speak, or yell. I’d sit up in bed constantly rocking my body back and forth for hours, both hands clamped firmly over my mouth, and non-stop tears going down my cheeks. There were lots of times when crying was unstoppable and so was yelling, begging for mercy, and screaming for help. I was afforded all the best pain medicines in the world, sometimes none of them helped.


After 52 surgeries and the amputation of my right leg I no longer cared if there was a tomorrow.  The more time that passed from when I was in the military doing good, the harder it was for me to believe that I was good. Rafael Hernandez, my physical therapist at MiamiVA told me about VA National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic (WSC.) He said that if I would trust him that he had faith that WSC and some lady named Teresa Parks could help me. He was reaching for straws, his bag of tricks on how to help was now empty and and I’d given up. Rafael saw something in me worth saving even when I didn’t. Still I was skeptical. Not just because faith and trust were two things I no longer had, but also because the whole thing sounded like a bad storyline to a bad movie. Under the promise of help a guy agrees to get shipped off to a clinic far off up in the mountains never to be seen or heard from again. I went anyway.

I could write a book about all the ways WSC has helped me, maybe one day I will. It got me to turn off the TV, get up off the couch and get out of the house. WSC’s a library of practical information and useful tools, it’s a master class on living better as a disabled Veteran. I met Teresa Parks, Director WSC, and Rafael’s co-conspirator. Like a conductor of a large symphony she focused on the big picture, and mindful of the smallest details. To her, disabled is a word and a challenge, while Veteran is always a hero. Someone at Miami VA told Teresa of my longstanding unfulfilled dream to be a rower.  If life didn't give this guy his dream, maybe his dream could give him back his life. “Let’s find him his chance to be a rower.”


It was the last day of WSC and it was cold and snowing. I was asked to speak to the general assembly and I accepted without hesitation. My message was simple: “never give up.” Disabled Veterans, by definition, have seen some of humanity’s darkest moments, sometimes the passage of time intensified the experience. Some of our country's darkest nights have been followed by some of our brightest days. As I spoke the words trust and faith it occurred to I once again had both. The injuries that disabled these Veterans disabled their future. “You fought to save other people’s lives, now I’m asking you to fight to save your own.”  Deep within each of us is purpose and with it is joy.

Rowing gave me purpose, and purpose is where I found hope. It’s impossible to dream when you’re barely holding on. I knew that better than most. Never give up. “Everyone in this room was given a second chance at life. Many we know were not so lucky. You owe it to them and to yourself to make good use of the second chance you were given.”  As soon as I finished my speech, I left to go for a walk. It was a humbling experience, and an honor to speak to this group. I wanted to savor the few remaining hours of WSC. I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I was this happy. That’s when it happened.

I’d stopped to window shop at one of the stores along the plaza, when I looked up I couldn't believe what I saw in the reflection. It was someone I thought I’d never see again, he’d been gone forever.  It felt like a lifetime had passed since I’d seen that face. For a long time after he left, I looked everywhere to find him, many good people tried to help me find him too.  But in the end, I had to accept that he was gone forever, that he was never coming back. In a million years I’d never have guessed I’d find him here at WSC, but there he was. Realizing how much I had missed him and how happy I was to see that smile again, my eyes filled with tears. Sure, he was older and he had changed physically quite a bit, but I still would have known him anywhere. The guy I saw, the guy I ran into that day.. was me. The me I used to be, the me I used to like being. It had been a long time.


I died after that first amputation, or a good part of me did. Even writing this, brings tears rolling down my face. I got my second chance at life, a lot of people don’t.  My body has never let me down and it still hasn’t. If there is a time in your life that you can point to and say, “this is where my life took a sudden and dramatic turn south,” hopefully there is another for where it turned back around.  For me Rowing was my U-Turn. 

When I say “all my life I’d wanted to be a rower” it’s a statement of fact. I mean .. All My Life.  Has it been everything I had hoped it would be?  Yes, and 100x more.  Sometimes we picture things in our minds and when they come around often it’s not as good as imagined. Rowing was like turning on the music… the sunshine.  The first time I went out on the water .. I knew this is where I am supposed to be. This is where I will find and give the best of me.  Being on the water has always been my safe place. I could walk on water if need be. When I am on the water, when I am doing what I love to do. time is turned back.  It’s me, before the wounded, broken me.  I am no longer disabled I’m like everybody else. Rowing speaks to every part of me. The athlete and the artist.  I love the discipline.

Without a doubt, and I don’t want to sound star struck but, the greatest moment of my life - the most amazing life experience was competing at World Championships in Paris. And setting a new world record.

A couple from Germany introduced themselves. The man looked like a skyscraper towering over me. Only she spoke English. "My husband was telling me everyone here does same 2000 meters, except you guys do more," making a gesture toward my leg. I stood up to shake their hands. Rowers are good people, if they're laughing it's not at you. If they're cheering, there's a good chance it is for you. There's no bad guy, no us against them. We help each other and understand each other. A cross section of the entire rowing family was there; 2020 Paris World Rowing Indoor Championship made sure there was a place at the table for everyone. You couldn't help but feel proud.

Paris was an off the charts, professional, personal, emotional, and athletic explosion of wonderful. It was a memory I will hold the rest of my life. It was surreal. I deserved to be there; I had earned the opportunity. I wasn’t sure if I was worthy of it. When you’ve had your life taken from you and with it goes every shred of happiness you believe you will ever have is gone it’s hard to open up again and believe you can again be happy.  Going to Paris was a dream come true.  I couldn’t believe it was happening. My battle of worthy didn’t stop me from going... in fact Paris is where I won my Battle of Worthy.

This was all something that was never going to happen for a guy that was never going to be able to deliver. 

My greatest compliment is when I so often hear “you are an inspiration”. What an honor that is to hear someone say that. I try every day to inspire people, I am being honest. Come on.. who could have ever pictured someone like me doing what I have done. I have no ego, that dissolved a long time ago. But I do have joy, happiness and I do have tomorrow. And as long as I have those, I will be out doing what I enjoy most in this world: rowing. I will continue to help grow the sport that saved my life. I will continue to work to make this sport available to all. When people see you doing something that you love, something that fills you with passion, they will follow.


Tom Barker said:

If we could stop fighting each other and start helping each other more, if we could be nicer to each other maybe by this time next year we would like each other more. Kidds would see more good and less bad . A comment told how Mr. Ward took the time to talk to those boys who were making fun of him, takes a strong man can put his feelings aside snd talk to them . I think those moms were wrong to make this guy teach their kids something mom and dad failed to to do. All ends well thanks to this guy. Amen.

Gunnar Melder said:

Rowing has been my passion while disabled. Patrick and those that support athletes is imperative to the continue success of Athletes without Limits and other organizations.

June France said:

That story was moving and inspiring . No one ever said life was fair but you go on.

Who is he? The 2nd Chance guy.

Never give up. Never give up. Never give up.

Mary Ellen Glynn said:

A beautiful surprise to find a story this compeling same page where I went to order some cloths. This story should be your front page, your put it front and center so we don’t miss it page. This guy deserves a world of thanks and credit. JLRacing deserves the same for having the insight and strength for writing something that does not require you enter, the CVV number on the back of your card. I’m putting this article on our company webpage right up front.. with thanks to both you and Mr. Ward. This is a story to tell and a lesson of life we need to remember. Never Give Up.

Karen Biltz said:

I read this 3 times. Its a life that beat all the odds. Patrick Ward

Carrie and Tim Robinson said:

I think my husband might have been on Georgetown Univ crew the year Pat refers to in this story, They practiced there most days. Small world, great article.Live life its all we have.

Lance Mitchell said:

I can only say this story helped me more than words could say. Theres lots of ways to give up and I did. I was sitting in my doctors office where I am 3-4x week. Hell with that- if this guy could keep doing what he had to do so can i . So can lots of us. We dont read enough stories like this because there aren’t enough companies that care enough to tell stories like this. I have to be honest I don’t know you guys and I don’t row and I’m only37. But look at this guy I bet he was the only one who believed he could it. Well he did and I can too. That’s a lot of words for starting of with -!theres not much I can say… “. Oh all these typos are because Im crying the good kind. Sorry this is so long.

ricki dorn said:

Compelling, tough, soft, sensitive, determined, and victorious are a few adjectives that come to my mind after reading this article. They apply to the article and to Pat as well. Mostly victorious. As a reader I tried to feel his pain but don’t think i reached it. I do think I felt his joy at finding himself once more— older but stronger and better. Congrats, Pat. You rowed this boat successfully to the oppositive shore amid thunderous storms. Cheers to WSC for making it happen. And Pat, keep it going!!!

Jeffrey Dorn said:

I met Pat through a writers group and didn’t know his personal story until after we had interacted about writing first. I was impressed by his bright aggressive optimism and high energy which changed the dynamics of any room which he entered. When I later learnt his personal history, my initial evaluation made sense. Anyone who has overcome the challenges that he has is an unstoppable force of nature. Being with Pat Ward can change a person’s life and show them how to focus on their potential not their disabilities.

Eddy Lada said:

Why do bad things happen. Im not a religious man but if free this was a test id fail if this is a kids bedtime story color me inspired

Jennifer Bean said:

The last few months have been very draining fir me. I wonder why things haven’t worked out for me. I read this article and starred crying. I have nothing to complain about. He lost everything yet he found the strength to start over. Ward inspired me to look around many people are worse off than me but are stronger than me. This article has been a wake up call fir me. Maybe this is my second I will never knw unless I try. JL this was a good thing you did. Bless you. Jb

Charles Medlin said:

The courage it takes to not only overcome your injuries but to realize your dreams in rowing is amazing and you sir are a true inspiration

Dr. Sharon Peterson said:

You don’t have to go to hell to know its hot. What this guy endured is hell on earth and we all need to be thankful he went there for us. I congratulate JLRowing for taking the time to share this story with us. It is the story a one man working for the greater good, working for our country and each of us; He is a hero and by all accounts someone who won’t give up. This is inspiraition in the true sense of the word. Thank you for your service Dr. Ward

Cindy Sherner said:

My 16 yr old daughter read this and showed it me. Now I could beg her to read something out of a magazine or any article it would never happen. But since it was on JLrowing she read it with no prompt from me, maybe we could get your help with her school assignments. The article is humbling yet at same time uplifting. Thank you for printing it. What a story of strength and a hero. These days we need more heroes like him. This is how you change the world “Out of the ashes rises the hope”.

Sandy Trust said:

There’s Good and bad things going on here. First the Good: he looks good in your cloths. The Bad: he looks good in your cloths and it has cost me $$. My kids all row, if you made your cloths a bit ugly or your models not so handsome it might save me some $$. KIDDING (my daughter is going to for saying that.
This is an amazing story of never giving up. This is what I try to teach my kids but having a real life example helps them see the possibilities. A fantastic article and really well written. Tell Mr. Ward to keep going he’s got a army of support standing behind him. (oh and the crack about the cloths/models we won’t share that with him )





Carter Stone said:

Talent without passion is nothing. I would rather coach one Pat Ward then ten newbies.I would bet that his personal hardware is something he’s had to accept but doesn’t let it slow him down.

Carrie Warren said:

When I read stuff like this I want everyone to read it. Inspiration comes too seldom in the world these days, Pat Ward seems to inspire just by being himself.

Peter Warren said:

I was at Bayada Regatta this year and was introduced to Pat Ward. There’s something special about him you just know it. I was surprised when I came across this article because I didn’t know this back story but its certainly one worth knowing. This is a great article he certainly inspired me. He stopped to talk with some kids, he was helping an elderly man up a ramp. When he was waterside or in his boat it was all business. He is special, not sure how to explain it better but I know the world needs more people like him.

Larry Karlin said:

Dear jlrowing, There are often tough choices to face in life- this guy stood strong. I see he’s wearing your cloths and they look great. This is the kind of story we need today. A guy who said I won’t give up and keeps going. One comment said Ward acted like he’d never had a care in the world, he kept going because he’d had many. Thanks for a Christmas story from a company with compassion.

Barbara Clemson said:

My cousin showed me this article and I like it. I also recognize some JL cloths he has on. They look great on him.👍

Lauryn Ruppin said:

I didn’t know you guys did articles, but this one is a home run. We live in Boston and we’re rowers. Your company is well known to my wallet so it was nice to see you doing this. We read the article aloud to our guests one night durning Hanukkah after a friend had sent it to my husband. Powerful piece, a man to be admired.

Peter Christopher said:

Glad I read this. Moving story sure sure makes you think.

Mr&Mrs. Jason Patrick Kennedy said:

We just made a $25 donation to United States Rowing in the name JL Rowing. Rare to find companies that give and that care and would write such a compelling article. Our hats are off to you. Hopefully other companies will care too. Im glad I got the opportunity to read this. Thank you

Ann Timpe-Brennan said:

Pat & I met at freshman orientation activities @ St. Louis U. & have been family ever since. It was so terribly sad to read Pat’s description of dying/a good part of him dying, after his first amputation. It was wonderful when Pat recognized during his WSC talk that he ONCE AGAIN HAD TRUST & FAITH! It was so moving to read Pat’s description of Seeing His Reflection in a store window & RE-DISCOVERING HIS FORMER SELF!!! (who he thought was gone forever) & reacting with tears. I cried too when I read this & was thankful for the healing tears that Pat was able to express. Pat is inspirational. He genuinely cares for others & speaks to them from his heart. Pat is a Blessing!

Nelson Miners said:

It’s an epic story and this guy deserves all the respect in the world. Then I got to that picture at the end. Wow talk about powerful. I got goose bumps. When did you guys start doing articles like this one. That picture could stand alone. JLRacing you guys are the new 🚐 Vanity Fair

Stan Toolman said:

Ive been buying gear from JL Racing for years. The quality is good and they look great on me so thank you. What an amazing story. As I was reading my mind kept saying- this story needs to be told to the world. This a movie waiting to be made and shared with the world.

Joan Sauder said:

Let Patrick Ward’s story be a reminder to all to keep going and to never give up . Great article,

Nicki Reed said:

Powerful article- says what the world needs to hear of. How is it that this guy who lost so Icgl

Andrea S. Guthrie said:

After looking in the window, Pat started to see himself re-emerge with a new purpose in life. He decided to challenge himself in the sport of rowing. Something he had always wanted to do!
Pat has shown that with a positive attitude and much determination, it is possible to achieve one’s goals.
I’ve only had the pleasure of being in Pat’s company a few times, and his warmth and charm can light up a room!
I’m honored to call Pat my ♥️ friend.
A True American Hero!

Robin said:

I know Pat by words of friends of his who are also mine. Lest we ever forget the sacrifices made by the US services so that we have freedom . The injured – physically and psychological- are owed whatever it takes to give them a life that they care about living for. Programs like this do just that. What strikes me profoundly is the resilience, the fight , the perseverance to keep going – how? This is the lesson .

Elaine Steinner said:

Id taken my 7 yr old son and 2 of his friends to Stonewall Regatta in Wash DC this past summer. My son saw Pats leg and said something wasn’t nice to his buddies that many heard. I pulled back to watch this play out. Pat went right over to talk them and for 15 mins they talked about his leg, rowing, St Louis Cardinals.. Pat was in 2 races that day, my son and his buddies were the loudest voices cheering Pat on. He invested 15 in my kid and it paid off for my family. We didn’t know Pat before that day but he made a huge impression on us. Kind, patient a good athlete and a great guy. This article supports the man who inspired many people that day. Nice to see JL do articles like this. Good job

Elaine Steinner said:

Id taken my 7 yr old son and 2 of his friends to Stonewall Regatta in Wash DC this past summer. My son saw Pats leg and said something wasn’t nice to his buddies that many heard. I pulled back to watch this play out. Pat went right over to talk them and for 15 mins they talked about his leg, rowing, St Louis Cardinals.. Pat was in 2 races that day, my son and his buddies were the loudest voices cheering Pat on. He invested 15 in my kid and it paid off for my family. We didn’t know Pat before that day but he made a huge impression on us. Kind, patient a good athlete and a great guy. This article supports the man who inspired many people that day. Nice to see JL do articles like this. Good job

Jennifer Braynt said:

Kids aren’t always nice. We well at Regatta in Wash DC Pat Ward was competing. My 6 yr old son was staring at Pat’s leg a comment that wasn’t nice. We don’t know Pat but when he heard the comment he went over to my son and his 2 friends. I pulled back to wa

Sarina Samuel said:

What an incredible article. Pat never seizes to amaze me. He is an inspiration to all of Miami Beach Rowing Club and the world. We are eternally grateful to know him, learn from him, and call him our teammate and friend.

Sarina Samuel said:

What an incredible article. Pat never seizes to amaze me. He is an inspiration to all of Miami Beach Rowing Club and the world. We are eternally grateful to know him, learn from him, and call him our teammate and friend.

Rayo Moreno said:

Pat’s story brought me tears and joy, but most of all I got to know Pat on a deeper level. I’ve always known Pat as a happy person. He is always smiling. I was not aware how deep his struggles were. dHe embodies strength and courage and I am so proud to call him my friend and neighbor. We appreciate you and thank you for all that you have done and your sacrifice. Thank you for sharing your inspiring story.

William Beckley said:

Patrick is such an inspiration to All that have suffered a life changing experience. He is a Hero in so many ways and loves promoting this program and surely inspires others. I am proud to have Patrick as a friend. Bill Beckley

Steven Dowd said:

Pat. You are an inspiration.

Mike Blackford said:

WOW!!! Have known Pat for years and even without his accomplishments, he is just a great American. Once you add his accomplishments to his patriotism and personality, he truly is super-human. Proud to know him and glad he is on my side. Keep up the work Pat – you are making a difference in other people’s lives.

William Beckley said:

What an amazing story!

Kevin Moody said:

I’ve been a rower 26 yrs. Thought I’d learned it all, then I tun across this article. I don’t know this guy but he sure inspired me. Like a kick in my behind, get out there and just do it. No excuses, no “but I cant do it” Great article.

Kevin Moody said:

I’ve been a rower 26 yrs. Thought I’d learned it all, then I tun across this article. I don’t know this guy but he sure inspired me. Like a kick in my behind, get out there and just do it. No excuses, no “but I cant do it” Great article.

Rob Curtin said:

Pat, you truly are an inspiration and an amazing person. I feel very lucky to have gotten to know you, and when I struggled with my own health this year, I thought of you. I was suddenly betrayed by my body, unable to climb a single stair without assistance; holding my own children was impossible. I was terrified. But thinking about you and your story gave me inspiration to continue fighting, to get better, and to be better than I was before my illness.
You are a remarkable person, and I am proud to call you a friend. Thank you.

Max said:

Patrick what an experience. I think you are a go-getter and an example to many.

Luiz Rodrigues said:

This is simply a fascinating story. Patrick has been an inspiration for me for a long time now. A story of determination, passion, and belief in oneself. Belief in the power within. Belief that you can do whatever you choose within your heart. Many should read his story. Patrick’s STORY. I’m positive that it will have an effect on anyone. Anyone! Because we all go through challenges in our lives. Different challenges. But challenges that sometimes we find it hard to overcome because we don’t trust ourselves, in the power within, in the God within. And this is what Patrick shares with the world. I love you Patrick. I love you for what you do and I love you for your determination. But mostly for the inspiration you are to the world. Thank you for being you and for loving you.

Josephine W Nyamu said:

Pat, word cannot be enough to tell you once more you really make us admire your efforts and hard work,here ,our
all rowers from our country kenya, we do admired your rowing technics and how you really fucus in rowing sport to produce not only to win, even to produce a good results. Your our hero Pat!
Josephine W Nyamu, the athletee and a coach

Sue Splain said:

What an amazing article about a true American hero! I so admire Pat’s determination and strength. Thank you for you service. I feel honored to call Pat my friend.

Colleen K said:

Forgot to say that picture at the end is powerful wonderful way to end this

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.