+
Family

For these vets, getting the right surfboard was more than a gift — it was a lifeline.

True
Starbucks Upstanders Season 2

After 15 deployments, Navy SEAL Alex West returned home a different man.

“[It] really put a lot of strain on my body,” he explained, and that strain left West struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and a traumatic brain injury.

But, despite the pain and trauma from his time in Iraq and Afghanistan, one thing still remained a constant: West's love for the water.


“I joined the Navy to be a SEAL," he says. "I think there is something special about the saltwater.”

All photos provided by Starbucks.

It comes as no surprise, then, that West would find healing and recovery in the waves.

Tapping into the sense of wholeness he found in the water, he turned to surfing as a way to cope with the after-effects of war.

“The moment that you catch a wave, there’s something about it in your mind that there is nothing else that goes on in the world,” he shared. “You just step away from that everyday life of getting ready for deployments or for combat.”

Turns out, he wasn’t the only vet to find a sense of calm in the water.

Fellow Navy SEAL James McFadden found comfort from the ocean too, after he returned from his first deployment having taken two bullets to the leg. He had to have 27 operations.

At first, he had worried he wouldn't be able to surf again, but he was determined to try, so he joined an adaptive surf program at Balboa Hospital. That's where he met West.

“When we first met each other, it was a huge surf day,” West explains. “And I remember thinking to myself, ‘Oh man, this is not good, this is going to be kind of dangerous.’”

But McFadden was unfazed. “I just crushed it out to the lineup,” he says.

West was amazed and inspired — watching McFadden skimming across the waves, he realized there was a real opportunity to make surfing more accessible for veterans like McFadden, who would benefit from custom equipment.

“Just because some of these guys and gals are missing legs or have serious injuries, it doesn’t mean that they can’t push it,” he says.“But there wasn’t one place that just specifically designed adaptive surfing equipment [for them].”

That’s how West got the idea for One More Wave — a nonprofit to help disabled veterans get back on the water with equipment designed especially for them.

If you are missing a limb, West explains, you might need a handle to hold the board better, or you might need to move the fins of the board for better support.

West and his crew connected with vets who badly needed new gear to get back on the water and helped them through inventive designs and community support.

“We’re bringing guys out, we’re studying them, we’re surfing with them,” West explains. “By providing them with a truly customized adaptive surfboard, we are able to help [them] catch more waves.”

But it’s about more than just surfboards it’s about the healing that happens when they get back out on the water.

One of the veterans whose life was transformed by One More Wave is Tommy Counihan, who says he finally found the sense of belonging and peace that he had been searching for on the water.

“I went from wanting to kill myself to wanting to conquer the f***ing world,” he admits. “[I wanted] to go out and break down all those limitations that I had set up for myself."

“I got that from surfing,” he continues.

When West heard stories like Counihan’s, he realized he was offering something much more important than just gear — he was offering a sense of kinship and community, which veterans returning from war so often needed.

For these vets, finding a sense of purpose, healing, and community can be life-saving.

War can be incredibly traumatic, with upward of 11-20% of veterans returning from Iraq suffering from PTSD, and nearly 1 million veterans living with a disability after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

And with nonprofits like West's, the quality of life for these veterans can be vastly improved with the right support.

“Whether you are dealing with an injury [or] you’re down, there is a way to get out of the darkness,” West says. “There’s a lot to live for in life. There’s still another wave to catch.”

Check out the amazing work of One More Wave in the video below:

Upstanders: The Wave to Recovery

Two Navy SEALs are giving wounded veterans a new adventure on the water. #VeteransDay

Posted by Upworthy on Friday, November 10, 2017
This story first appeared on the author's Medium and is reprinted here with permission.

Because you're a girl.

This article originally appeared on 04.14.17


I was promoted a few weeks ago, which was great. I got a lot of nice notes from friends, family, customers, partners, and random strangers, which was exciting.

But it wasn't long until a note came in saying, “Everyone knows you got the position because you're a girl." In spite of having a great week at a great company with great people whom I love, that still stung, because it's not the first time I've heard it.

Keep ReadingShow less
Identity

This blind chef wore a body cam to show how she prepares dazzling dishes.

How do blind people cook? This "Masterchef" winner leans into her senses.

Image pulled from YouTube video.

Christine Ha competes on "Masterchef."

This article originally appeared on 05.26.17


There is one question chef Christine Ha fields more than any other.

But it's got nothing to do with being a "Masterchef" champion, New York Times bestselling author, and acclaimed TV host and cooking instructor.

The question: "How do you cook while blind?"

Keep ReadingShow less
All illustrations are provided by Soosh and used with permission.

I have plenty of space.

This article originally appeared on 04.09.16


It's hard to truly describe the amazing bond between dads and their daughters.

Being a dad is an amazing job no matter the gender of the tiny humans we're raising. But there's something unique about the bond between fathers and daughters.

Most dads know what it's like to struggle with braiding hair, but we also know that bonding time provides immense value to our daughters. In fact, studies have shown that women with actively involved fathers are more confident and more successful in school and business.

Keep ReadingShow less

Gordon Ramsay at play... work.

This article originally appeared on 04.22.15


Gordon Ramsay is not exactly known for being nice.

Or patient.

Or nurturing.

On his competition show "Hell's Kitchen," he belittles cooks who can't keep up. If people come to him with their problems, he berates them. If someone is struggling to get something right in the kitchen, he curses them out.

Keep ReadingShow less

This article originally appeared on 01.27.20


From 1940 to 1945, an estimated 1.3 million people were deported to Auschwitz, the largest complex of Nazi concentration camps. More than four out of five of those people—at least 1.1 million people—were murdered there.

On January 27, 1945, Soviet forces liberated the final prisoners from these camps—7,000 people, most of whom were sick or dying. Those of us with a decent public education are familiar with at least a few names of Nazi extermination facilities—Auschwitz, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen—but these are merely a few of the thousands (yes, thousands) of concentration camps, sub camps, and ghettos spread across Europe where Jews and other targets of Hitler's regime were persecuted, tortured, and killed by the millions.

Keep ReadingShow less
Health

What I realized about feminism after my male friend was disgusted by tampons at a party.

"After all these years, my friend has probably forgotten, but I never have."

Photo by Josefin on Unsplash

It’s okay men. You don’t have to be afraid.

This article originally appeared on 08.12.16


Years ago, a friend went to a party, and something bothered him enough to rant to me about it later.

And it bothered me that he was so incensed about it, but I couldn't put my finger on why. It seemed so petty for him to be upset, and even more so for me to be annoyed with him.

Recently, something reminded me of that scenario, and it made more sense. I'll explain.

Keep ReadingShow less