Upon reflection of Memorial Day, we sat down with our friends Stephanie and Andy, veterans from Warrior Surf Foundation, to talk about the meaning of Memorial Day and how we can collectively raise awareness and show support for our Veterans.
The Meaning & Misconstruction of Memorial Day
“Today some will celebrate a three-day weekend, and some will be vaguely aware of why the weekend is long. For others, the meaning of today hits closer to home as they honor their brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, friends, and families who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice for the things we so often take for granted. Today we remember Warriors who will live on as we breathe life into their legacy by mentioning their names and telling their stories. When you see us quietly circled up in the ocean today, memorializing…. we challenge you to recall that today is a gift-take your own moment of silence to honor all those who have gone before us.”
It is important to remember what Memorial Day is about. There is this false idea that Memorial Day is just a long weekend filled with beers on the beach. However, in reality, it is a time to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Brave individuals who gave their lives so that we can enjoy what we often take for granted. Unfortunately, there is a divide in our population between those who make money off of this holiday and those who actually have relations to veterans.
Memorial Day has become misinterpreted as a holiday to get drunk on the beach and barbeque. That is not the point. It is a time to recognize and be grateful for the privilege of being in the United States. A day to be grateful for our freedom. In all reality, the people who choose to turn this into another drunken holiday, it is their freedom to do so.
I don’t go to the beach on Memorial Day, in fact, I usually go hide in the Mountains. I think about the sons without fathers and the fathers without sons. I think about the daughter who never got to meet her father. I think of the families past, present and future that have lost people on behalf of this country.
The Circumstances of Veterans Today
Today, there are fewer Veterans than ever before in our history. Therefore, there is not as big a community to understand and help them adapt back to societal norms. Accordingly, there is also less understanding of who our veterans are and what they have actually done for us. This cultural shift seems to invoke little to no desire to understand our veterans at all, devaluing their importance.
The current state of the military is different than when I was there. Our wars are getting smaller, more secret and farther away. While there may not be any big battles being fought right now, there are still men and women out there serving our country every day. The more awareness we have for these individuals, the more supported they are when they come home. And the less awareness, the more they are left to the side to figure it out on their own. There are many more resources that exist now than when I got out of the military. However, just because there are resources, doesn’t mean veterans may know how to access them or even ask for help. Our wars have gotten darker and more secret but our transition process is still the same.
Raising Awareness and Showing Support
While the military is responsible for training troops for service, they are not responsible for transitioning them out. Therefore, it is our responsibility to transition them back into the community. We can raise awareness by tuning into this responsibility. The best way to show our support is to create spaces for these Veterans to adapt back to civilian life. Investing in our Veterans is investing in our community. We should be making more investments now rather than just being reactionary.
In addition to Warrior Surf, some good organizations to contribute to are Vantage Point and Warrior Sailing. Before donating to an organization it is important to ask how this organization is actually affecting the veteran, how many veterans are being helped and what are the outcomes.
When you go to a service, there is a moment of silence. When you go to a ceremony, there is a seat not filled. Days like today are similar only there are large groups of people who are not here. Awareness is the conscious effort to remember that, even if it is just for 5 minutes.
Showing support can look like volunteering to help serve those who have served you. You can donate to a cause or volunteer your time. It is important to do research to ensure you are supporting good organizations. This country is in need of more grassroots organizations like Warrior Surf.
How Warrior Surf Impacts Veterans
“One of the questions we ask our participants when they get rocked by a wave (or 10) is, “What now?” Will they choose to get angry and give up, or will they harness their emotions and try again? We take that same question into our wellness coaching sessions, and say, “How will you take what you did out there and apply it to your everyday life?” Then in yoga we say, “How can you take all that you’ve learned to become present here in this moment?” Often in the beginning the answer is giving in, but over time as they lean into the struggle it everything clicks and the tools they learn become a part of who they are.”
“Surfing is the great equalizer of the heart and mind. You find yourself out there in the waves when you’re alone with your reactions, moods, and emotions. Each moment is a choice in how you will respond to what comes next when the only control you have is right there in the square inches of your board.”
Warrior Surf offers practices like Surf lessons and Yoga because these are ways to cultivate mindfulness and awareness of the present moment. They teach us the difference between thoughts that are true and untrue as well as skills to be resilient. Veterans are some of the most skillful people and sometimes they forget that. Changing a life doesn’t have to be major. Small shifts like improving relationships with family can make a huge difference.
Our program is just one way for these relationships with our vets to become reestablished. Surfing is at the core of our organization and it is because there is something about being consumed by the ocean that changes human beings and makes them tick in a different way. It is backed by science and it is pure magic. A big principle we teach our vets is Surfers vs. Weekend Warriors. A real surfer will surf any wave on any day with any board and that is what makes you a warrior.
You can learn more about Warrior Surf and show your support HERE.