Quick update: I should have thanked new friend and all around great guy, Clark Cunningham for handing me off a copy of the SJ referenced below! Its people like Clark that keep me motivated and knowing that America really is beind us as a veteran community!
You may remember on 9/11/11 this year, the Sierra Club hosted Paddle Out for Heroes, an opportunity for military and non-military surfers to honor the sacrifices of our service members and their families since 9/11/01. In the office or on the trail, my mind often drifts off to far away waves. In my mind, I'm able to surf them, but as the picture here shows, I can't. Nevertheless, on the way home from Joshua Tree last week I crammed myself back into the cross continental flight and fished out a copy of the Surfer's Journal, volume sixteen, number two. I had to bury my sorrow from a seven day trip to Southern California where only ankle high waves rolled in and our climbing trip to Joshua Tree saw two out of the five inches of annual rain fall come on two out of the three days we had to climb.
Sometimes nature wants you just too watch...
I turned to an article entitled "Coming Home: A Rare Camp Pendleton Surf with the United States Marines" by Mark Anders. In the third paragraph, Anders writes about Major Ted Handler's platoon, the "Nemesis" in a fire fight outside of Tikrit:
The firefight lasted almost two hours; Handler's unit successfully ran off the insurgents and moved forward to hold ground outside of Tikrit. "Your adrenaline is pumping the whole time, then when it ends you're like, 'holy smoke,' and you need to find a way to decompress...That was one of those times when I just needed a break, kind of searching for anything so that I could distance myself from reality for at least a couple of minutes. Every surfer I toalk to in the Marines ahs a particular wave they remember or a great tube ride they can go to. Those memories come in handy. They help me take a pause, then enable me that intense focus."
Two things struck me about this article:
1. I had no idea Major's commanded platoons in the Marine Corps. We have Lieutenant's do it in the Army.
2. Surfing is a force multiplier and part of individual, and perhaps even unit readiness.
While not everyone may be stationed near a surf break, there's no reason that rock climbing, fly fishing, hiking, mountain biking, etc. cannot be what surf was and is for the surfing Marines highlighted in this article.
It follows as well that if surfing can be a force multiplier, the very memories of it allowing a hardened war fighter the tools to maintain intense focus, how much more can it help when the warrior comes home? How much can it help for the warrior's family and the warrior's community to help reintegrate the warrior upon their return to a society and family that did not fight the war?
If there were no surf breaks for the Major and his Marines, would they be an effective fighting force? And if not, don't we, as a Nation which has decided to maintain the world's best fighting force, require there to be places where our fighting men and women can make these memories of great tube rides, off width climbs, sweet powder days, and sublime hikes?
Taking the Major's statement to a possible logical conclusion: ensuring there is an outdoors for our service men and women to recreate in, and outdoor recreation, are indeed issues of National Security.
Too big of a logic jump for you? Let me know why or why not.
~Stacy Bare, OIF Veteran
Military Families and Veteran Representative to the Sierra Club
"Helping America's Military and Veteran Community experience the freedom of the land they defend"