Saturday, August 26, 2006

"These guys will try anything"

The title says it all - taken from a quote in the August 23rd edition of San Luis Obispo Tribune about an event organized by and, and worked by volunteer/supporter/friend of milblogs/very nice lady - Donna, Los Osos.

"There are a few things that you do in your lifetime that you will remember forever," said Grover Beach resident Modeana Lamphier, a member of the Pismo Beach Longboarder's Club, referring to her time in the water with the veteran Andy Soule.
"It was so much more than teaching some people how to surf," Lamphier said. "These guys will try anything. For them it's all about pushing their limits to find out what they can do; maybe not even what they can do, because they can do anything, but more about finding a way to adapt so that they can do it."
To set the stage, I'll steal some content from Blackfive's post Amputee Surfers - Follow Up. This was part of an AAR sent by volunteer Glenn Norberg.
The mission: To give some amputee soldiers and marines a chance to surf.
The outcome: A stoke beyond all belief. and teamed up in Pismo Beach, CA August 16-20 to give a bunch of amputee soldiers and marines the opportunity to surf. For 4-5 hours a day they learned to surf thanks to a small army of fortunate volounteers. Whether they had day [sic] two, one or no legs to stand on, the vets gave it their all. Local coverage was huge - the whole surf community was in on it. Even CNN, and National Geographic showed up.

The Tribune article has an incredible slideshow of the guys and even one of Donna!

Donna jumping for joy! Click the pic to see the slideshow of heroes in action.

Donna threw herself into this project after reading this over at Capt. Z's (who got it from Some Soldier's Mom). When it was over, she sent me the following AAR from her perspective.

(The pictures were taken by Desiree Cobb who documented the whole production.)
The troops flew in last week (Tuesday) and left yesterday afternoon. It was so odd how I got involved. Captain Z had put a little blurb on his blog about a month ago about a surf trip, so I checked it out. I think it just said “Help these guys out” and linked “” (My husband is a golfer and surfer) Well, the event was going to be in Pismo Beach which is 10 miles away from me! So I emailed Operation Comfort to see if I could help. She gave me the contact person here who was working on it. He is a local amputee surfer, who I’m sure thought I was a crazy person at first.
Mike Owens going for it
I have been helping in the planning for about a month. I cannot even explain how amazing this week was. And everyone involved has the same reaction. The guys kept thanking us, and we kept thanking them. They are so amazing. It ended up getting a lot of press coverage locally, and even National Geographic, the AP, and CNN were also there.

The whole time I was working on this I woke up every day thanking God I was allowed to be a part of it. Then when the guys (and one girl, Stephanie!) got here, I was almost in a constant state of adrenaline rush. Not only or these the most courageous people I have ever been around, they are also the most fun! I wish I had a tape recorder all the time.

Navy, Marines and Army chow down
One story..I took the guys out one night to a bar in San Luis Obispo (actually they took me..I was the Mom making sure guys got home safe). Little old Irish dive bar in downtown called McCarthy’s. It was packed, and here we come… wheelchair, amputee troops, and surfers. Luckily a big group leaves just as we get there. great quote that night - when the guys were checking out a rather tall, striking girl, Sgt. Michael Owens (Marine) said "Once we figured out she wasn't a man, she was hot!" I also love the quote on the KEYT news clip from Pedro Castillo (also a Marine) "Last thing I wanted to see for a while was the sand!"

Later the bartenders all figure out who they all were (because of the press) and were thanking me for bringing them there, and thanking the guys…They were local celebrities! Owner wants me to give him copies of the pictures taken in the bar so they can make a display with their story and pictures. People all over Pismo beach knew who they were… I have so many stories like that! It made me appreciate my area more. Lately we have had so many limo-liberals move here I have been sort of soured. No more! The guys went away knowing California LOVES them!.

The troops handled everything so amazing. They had cameras and microphones in their face so much with all the media attention, all the while learning to surf and even golfing one day! They surfed Wed/Thurs/Friday from 7:00am – 12:00. Saturday, they were in a surf contest, in the “Veterans” division. It was unbelievable and so much emotion for everyone. Of course I tried to suck it up and not embarrass them. These are some of the most courageous people I have ever met. The guy who organized this (Rodney Roller) is really a simple, humble, surfer-dude. He had such a heart for the troops, and just wanted them to get stoked! And they did! Went home to Texas with great surfer lingo. I’ve got so many stories I’ve got to write them down. (GN: Yes please!).

We had an Associated Press guy with us. He was there when they first flew in and stayed the whole time. At first, of course, the guys are suspicious and very cautious. After a few days, they started to get used to him. Well “Oscar” (that’s his name) went to McCarthy’s with us. When I went to take a carload home to Pismo Beach, Oscar asked if he could ride with me. Well I already had a full Yukon, but the very back was free. He asked if he could just lie in the back.

Now, it’s late and we have been going strong since 7:00 AM. The guys are talking and joking away, and about ¾ of the way home, I holler out “Oscar, you OK back there?” Well, one of the guys (Dan) says “who’s Oscar?” Another of the guys says…you know…“Paparazzi”. The guys called Oscar “Paparazzi” the whole time. You should have seen that poor kid grimace! It was a hoot. They liked Oscar, and he even crashed in their rooms a couple of nights.

Ok..I've got two more things you will appreciate. Did you read the email that was posted from Charles Doty on the Tribune site (it was under the slide show photos)? I was sitting right next to Chang when that was read at dinner!! I couldn't look at him! I was so close to losing it already because they were leaving the next day. It was really special when it was read. Chang is a really quiet guy, and so wonderful. We have already emailed each other. My husband and he really got along. Chang did really well with the golf too. He is a double amputee and I think he was in a tank that got hit.

Champ Andy SouleAlso, Andy, who is also a double amputee and is shown at the award photo winning first...well they forgot to say that he surfed doing a handstand!!! Did it twice in the contest! He is probably one of the strongest guys I have ever seen.
Go to Captain Z’s site and look at his old posts to see the one I saw. It explains the event so you’ll understand the history. I can’t write like you. Well, got to go home now. I missed a bunch of work last week, but it was worth it!

Thanks for spreading the word...I am so proud of these guys! They really broke the ice for other guys. Can you imagine going to war, getting injured, getting used to a new body, and then learning one on the hardest sports,...all in front of strangers and a bunch of cameras! They are amazing! They want to do it every year now. Some of the guys are going to help us plan the next one, which will be great. We want to start now raising money for next year.

Semper gratus,

I dunno, girl - you've got a pretty good way of expressing yourself and telling this story! I can't add to your incredible generousity or add anything to this beautiful event. It's already making me sniffly again!

Thank YOU for letting me post about these heroes and some really special troop supporters!