Devotion

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Andy is a Marine veteran who suffered traumatic brain injuries while serving with the Second Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, aka Delta and Charlie company, during some of the heaviest fighting seen during the Iraq War. If I had to pick one quality that describes Andy, but if I had to pick one, it would be Devotion. “Survival” seems apt too, given how Andy has fought through so much and is still here and doing amazing work. He’s devoted to his country, he’s devoted to his fiancé, and he’s devoted to healing himself. But most of all, he’s become devoted to the Warrior Surf Foundation because he’s witnessed the life-altering effects the ocean has had not only on him, but on the hundreds he has taught to surf through Warrior Surf — a foundation he established in 2015. This includes veterans — combat or not, those veterans’ families, and vitally, the children of fallen warriors. He has absolutely devoted his life to the cause of helping Americans most directly affected by our overseas wars. Despite very little pay, he’s worked relentlessly over the last two years to further this organization. Andy’s a mission driven warrior, and this is now his life’s mission. A victim of traumatic brain injury and other combat related ailments himself, Andy has good and bad days. But even when things are tough, there’s a wry grin on his face. He has devoted his life to healing himself - not through drugs and medication - but dogged determination and healthy living. A huge part of that motivation, even when he doesn’t feel like he can get out of bed - is furthering Warrior Surf’s mission. The Foundation’s motto is “Always Beside You.” Andy’s out there every weekend for surf clinics, and every hour, day and night when those veterans need him.

Andy’s personal mission is to establish The Warrior Surf Foundation strongly enough in the Charleston Community that it can be expanded to other beachside veteran communities via self-supporting chapters. First he creates an ongoing local model for treatment, camaraderie and survival - with a network of therapists, fellow veterans and top-flight volunteer and paid surf instructors, then will ultimately take that model to other beachside communities and cities. To that goal, he currently has one satellite chapter up and running in Wilmington, North Carolina.

I personally know of several veterans whose lives have quite literally been saved by this Foundation. These are veterans severely and profoundly impacted by the experience of war - physically, psychologically and emotionally - who saw little way forward in life, and were ultimately contemplating ending their lives. The camaraderie they have found, and the life-changing effects the ocean has has had on their lives and psyches has quite literally saved them. Additionally, Andy has been working hard to recruit the parents of children who have lost parents in the line of military service. The effect surfing - and this organization - have had on these kids is profound.

A victim of traumatic brain injury and other combat related ailments himself, Andy has good and bad days. But even when things are tough, there’s a wry grin on his face. He has devoted his life to healing himself - not through drugs and medication - but dogged determination and healthy living. A huge part of that motivation, even when he doesn’t feel like he can get out of bed - is furthering Warrior Surf’s mission. The Foundation’s motto is “Always Beside You.” Andy’s out there every weekend for surf clinics, and every hour, day and night when those veterans need him.

First: it would allow Andy to draw a bit more salary than the bare survival wage he currently pays himself through the foundation. Second: It would allow him to pay compensation to Veterans Administration licensed surfer therapist Erin Jones, who devotes many hours to this organization. Andy would ultimately like for Erin to be salaried full time. Her goal is not only to help current veterans, but to develop a science-based “Ocean Healing” area of treatment for vets who suffer from post traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury and other effects from their service. Third: It would allow Erin to take the time to pursue much larger grant writing that could ultimately fund the organization and a small, salaried staff. Fourth: Teaching surfing is hard on equipment. Part of the funds would go to replacing surfboards battered by two years of weekly lessons and the purchase of standup paddle boards and to pay some of the most devoted surf instructor volunteers.

Andy is one of the most solid dudes I have ever met. I’m including him in an “Ocean Handbook” project I’m currently writing for Chronicle Books in San Francisco. In addition to local media here in Charleston, others have noticed Andy’s work. On August 31, Andy became the subject of a long segment on CNN’s award winning series “Heroes.” http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/31/health/cnn-hero-andrew-manzi-warrior-surf/index.html

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