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Disabled American Veterans

Centra "Ce-Ce" Mazyck's road to joining the Army started in fashion school, of all places.

In 1994, Mazyck was enrolled at Bauder College in Atlanta, taking classes to become a fashion stylist. But one year into her two-year program, she realized that she wanted more — so she joined the Army Reserve.

All images via Ce-Ce Mazyck, used with permission.


"I went in there with the mindset of only doing school," explains Mazyck. "But at the end of the day, I fell in love with it." Which probably isn't that surprising — the military is in her blood! Her mother, her uncles, and her grandfather were all in the military too.

In 1997, Mazyck went on active duty and was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

It tested her body and mind unlike anything else she had ever done. At one point, it got so tough that she even briefly thought about quitting. But after watching one of her favorite inspirational movies ("G.I. Jane") and having a heartfelt conversation with her female sergeant about the lack of women in the division, Mazyck reminded herself why she wanted to do this.

"The next day," she says, "I was jumping out of the airplane."

And for the next six years, Mazyck flourished.

Everything changed on a windy November day in 2003.

It was a routine jump, Mazyck says, but as the wind took her, something felt different. "This particular time," she explains, "it kept taking me."

Before long, she was tangled up with another jumper and together, they had to figure out the best way to brace their fall.

"Right before we were about to land, our parachute broke loose," she says. "I didn't have enough time to prepare a proper landing."

The fall broke the L1 and L2 vertebrae in her spine and paralyzed her from the waist down.

After the accident, she went through a tough rehabilitation period.

The doctors said she'd never walk again.

But through it all, Mazyck says, her son inspired her to keep pushing herself. Slowly, she was able to recover — and she even walked again with the help of forearm crutches.

"Everything that I went through — my mental toughness, my physical toughness," says Mazyck, "it was all because of [Tristen]."

During her rehab, Mazyck also received a boost from DAV (Disabled American Veterans), a nonprofit charity that empowers veterans and provides lifelong support for them and their loved ones.

"DAV explained that they could assist with any benefit issues and family issues that I may have," says Mazyck. "Nothing but awesome and kind people."

Once she had recovered physically, Mazyck set two new goals to find purpose after her military service: finishing her education and training for the Paralympics.

She had learned about wheelchair games while in rehab and, in 2005, actually competed at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Minnesota.

But, according to Mazyck, school had to come first.

The idea of finishing her degree was scary at first because she wasn't sure how people would treat her. But she made the leap and enrolled at the University of South Carolina in 2006. Her brother was there to support her through the whole process.

Mazyck graduated with a degree in sociology and a minor in women’s studies in December 2010.

"It meant the world to me," she says proudly. "It gave me that boost of confidence that I needed to become a part of society — to contribute to society again [after] being in the military, where, you know, it's our own little bubble."

Then she started training to compete in the Paralympics.

She trained almost every day — which was no easy feat as a single mother! But her mother helped care for her son while she trained. "That gave me comfort in my heart," Mazyck explains, "knowing that I was pursuing my dreams and my son was still being taken care of."

"My support system means the world to me. Without that, there would be no me."

Her hard work paid off. Not only did she compete in the javelin at the London Paralympics in 2012, but she went on to win a bronze medal at the World Championships in France soon after. Today, she travels the country conducting talks and inspiring the next generation of athletes with disabilities.

Thanks to a strong support system and desire to keep pushing herself, Mazyck found a way to keep doing what she loved after her military service.

"Dig deeper and just know that you can do it," adds Mazyck. "It doesn't have to be sports. It doesn't have to be you being a scholar at school. Just find your passion and go with it and don't give up on life — because it's too precious."

"I'm telling you, life truly begins once you live life outside of your comfort zone."

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

True

We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

via UNSW

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


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