Paraplegic vet forced to bail on world record attempt, leaves boat behind

Angela Madsen gets boat back in San Diego

SAN DIEGO - One of Angela Madsen's greatest fears is failure, but she fell short of her goal of becoming the first paraplegic to row across the Pacific Ocean alone last month.

The former active duty Marine, who is now a 53-year-old is a grandmother, said she lost full use of her legs because of a botched back surgery.

She has earned a number of world records and awards like the bronze medal for shot put in the Paralympic Games. On June 9, she was after another record.

She left Santa Cruz and headed for Honolulu. Ten days in, she hit harsh waters and strong winds.

"I got rolled once and I got knocked down about four or five times," she explained. "I happened to be in the cabin when it rolled, so it's just like being in a washing machine and you go end over end."

With the weather working against her, the Coast Guard was called in to get her to safety, but they had to leave the boat behind.

"[I] spent the last three weeks looking for the boat," she said. "Just elated and happy that we could find it."

A crew found it while fishing for tuna about 80 miles south of San Diego.

The boat, was named 'Spirit of Orlando' after a decorated royal Marine in England.

"I decided I was going to honor veterans and fallen soldiers," Madsen said.

She was choked up when she saw the boat she planned to accomplish a dream in and those emotions were followed by a show of patriotism.

"It's just so awesome that a boat named 'Old Glory' found it on the last day of the Independence holiday weekend, so it's just amazing," Madsen said.

The boat is painted with the U.S. flag and lined with faces of fallen troops.

"It just kind of ended [up] being tributes, and then I met the boys of 3/5, and they had a battle where they lost 25 guys in one battle," said Madsen.

3rd Battalion, 5th Marines had among the highest casualty rates of any combat unit in the war in Afghanistan. Lance Cpl. Matthew J. Broehm, 22, of Flagstaff, Ariz., was among the many fallen Marines she was rowing in honor of.

As they were recognized for their bravery, Madsen plans to honor them by pushing forward and setting a record.

Madsen sat in her wheelchair at H&M Landing looking at her patriotic boat with tears in her eyes.

"I'm ready to get back in the boat and row," Madsen added. "I want to go to Hawaii. I just don't see why I shouldn't be able to."


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