Wounded Warriors turning to salsa dance therapy

Dance program now at SD Naval Medical Center

SAN DIEGo - Three years ago, an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan robbed a Camp Pendleton Marine of his leg. Now, Darryl Charles says therapy in the form of salsa dancing has saved his soul.

When the idea of trying to salsa as a form of physical therapy was first proposed to Charles, he thought, "I'm not going to lie, I didn't think it would help whatsoever."

He and scores of other Wounded Warriors who lost limbs to IEDs or suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury have changed their tune.

In 2010, dance instructor Jennifer Ables was asked to come into Naval Medical Center San Diego.

"Because of my family's military background, I couldn't think of a better job to try and help Wounded Warriors," she said.

The dance moves not only help them strengthen their bodies, it helps emotionally as well.

"After I gave it a shot, it really changed things around," Charles said.

Like other Wounded Warriors, Charles not only had physical wounds but wounds you couldn't see from post-traumatic stress.

"I'm going out to clubs now to salsa dance, and once I start dancing I can be in a crowded room," he said.

The group Soldiers Who Salsa held a fundraiser Saturday at the San Diego Automotive Museum to expand the program.

"The hope," Ables said, "Is to bring salsa dancing as a form of therapy into the VA because when these Wounded Warriors leave the hospital, that's where they transition to."

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