Posie Mansfield was always known to challenge herself, although nothing could've prepared her for the two unimaginable challenges that struck her roughly year and a half ago.
Mansfield's husband passed away near the end of 2010, and just two months later she learned her left leg needed to be amputated above the knee due to an infection contracted during a knee replacement surgery.
Grief or anger could've paralyzed Mansfield emotionally and soured her outlook on life. Instead, the combined losses helped bring out Mansfield's inner strength and compelled her to keep moving forward in honor of her husband, pushing her to try new challenges like skydiving, skiing, horseback riding, rock climbing and kayaking.
And, for the first time at North Beach in Hampton on Friday, surfing — mainly because she "wanted a new challenge" and because she wanted to "show people losing a limb isn't the end of the world."
"I think is some ways my heart was broken when he died, and a piece of me died," said Mansfield, a Wenham resident who runs the amputee support group at Cornell Orthotics and Prosthetics in Beverly. "But, when I lost my leg... I think it was almost a blessing. It gave me a focus. It gave me a new lease on life."
Mansfield was one of a few dozen individuals to surf North Beach on Friday as part of the annual Wounded Warriors Hit the Beach event, which is designed as a way to give injured veterans and community members a chance to have some fun and forget about their injuries for a few hours. Video of Mansfield, whose husband was a veteran, and some of the other participants is attached to this story.
About 20 veterans participated in Friday's fifth-annual event, which American Legion Post 35 Cmdr. Ralph Fatello said he believed was larger than previous years thanks in part to an unbelievable volunteer turnout.
"You never know what you're going to get," said Fatello, remarking on the sizable attendance, which included veterans of a variety of conflicts, local surfers and residents, as well as volunteers from the Hampton Fire Department. "People just want to give back."
Teams of two to eight volunteers helped the various veterans and injured community members in a variety of ways. Some helped carry individuals into the surf, while others helped paralyzed participants get on the board, guided their surfboards through a wave, or taught the individual how to stand up on a wave.
Nate Smith, an Iraq veteran shot who was shot in the knee in 2004, was one of many seasoned Hit the Beach participants present Friday, and was one of several who stood tall atop a wave for the first time.
Others like Jerry Miserandino, who lost both of his hands due to a claymore in Vietnam, hopped in the surf Friday despite the fact that they recently underwent surgery. Miserandino, an annual Hit the Beach participant, recently had back surgery, but that didn't stop him from spending a couple of hours standing on some ample waves.
Ali Ness, Mansfield's daughter, said that excitement and supportive environment made it more "thrilling" to watch her mother try surfing for the first time Friday.
Ness, an Andover resident, said her mother "doesn't see her amputation as a hindrance at all" and is willing to try "anything," but she and Mansfield's other daughter, Aimée, said their mother may not have participated if there wasn't such a strong support system built into the event.
"I'm not sure if she would go out and do it on her own, but she keeps finding these things [organized by various nonprofits and support groups]," said Aimée Mansfield, also of North Andover, "I think it's great they have programs like this. It's great they include everyone and give them a chance to try something different."