In the final approach to my swim next week, many people have asked why I have chosen this particular swim. Why put such effort and hard work into another swim when I have already had the privilege of swimming around the world completing the Oceans Seven, and most recently a solo crossing from the Farallon Islands back here in San Francisco? I guess it is fair to say I have had more than my share of swims. And along the way, I have been blessed with worldwide publicity.
I feel fundamentally compelled to use this attention and goodwill to help others. For there is something truly special when you put your mind and body on the line for others. And I am fortunate to be part of a team of like-minded individuals called Night Train Swimmers. Every year we select a charity or two to raise funds and awareness for. I proudly serve on the Advisory Board of Warrior Canine Connection, a pioneering organization that uses canine connection therapy to help veterans and service members suffering from post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury reconnect with their lives and their families. And I have been waiting for the right opportunity to highlight this cause through my swimming.
I am doing this swim to honor all who have served and suffered greatly as a result. Specifically, those who have returned seemingly physically whole, but are faced with the invisible wounds of war, most notably post traumatic stress.
I am doing this swim to honor my late Grandfather, who volunteered for WWII, spending 4.5 years away from his fiancée (my late Grandmother) fighting in the East Africa campaign. I remember staying with my Grandparents as a young child and waking up in the middle of the night to the sounds of his terrible nightmares. Back then there was no formal recognition of post traumatic stress. Yet in many ways I think living on a farm surrounded by animals saved my Grandfather. A devoted animal lover, he was my role model, my cheerleader and my friend who taught me so much about what is important in life. He was a firm believer in giving back. The values about life which he exemplified so honorably and consistently were gifted to me with unending love. My promise to him is to demonstrate this for as long as I live. And so while he is no longer with me, he is within me.
Many of my close friends here in the US are veterans and service members. This swim is a unique opportunity for me to honor each of them and to create meaning out of my own commitment to a cause that is dear to my heart.
Politics simply do not matter. It about compassion for others, and knowing that we - as a community, a nation, a world - have a duty to help each other, however we can. Indeed, this is about giving back. Significantly there would not be a family in America that is not affected either directly or indirectly by the services veterans provide on our behalf, and the enduring struggle they face as they rebuild their lives and try to reintegrate back into civilian life.
I am well aware that the struggle I will face in the 45 hour duration of my swim pales into insignificance as compared to their own struggles on a daily basis.
If you are able to donate to my swim you can do that here. Any donation would be greatly appreciated. If you are unable to donate, I would be most grateful if you could help spread the word by sharing this blog post. I think Warrior Canine Connection is a worthy cause that deserves our help.
Lest we forget.