Here is a beautiful piece written by one of our returning veterans, Heraclio K Aguilar III
What survival means to me
I was a young child growing up in Central California and we started off our spring break with a three-hour trip to the beach. Our parents had worked hard so they could get the time off too. Mother always packed breakfast and lunch for the trip. She was very cost-conscious and refused to stop at fast food places for a $1 burger when she could make a something for 20 cents. We would arrive around noon to a campground that was just a few miles north of 'the dunes'. At the age of 8 there were a lot of experiences that I had not had, but was eager to learn - like swimming in the ocean by myself. It was about 2 in the afternoon by the time we hit the sand, the sun was bright and the ocean air was strong leading us to believe that today was going to be a good day. My younger brother did not enjoy the ocean as much as me - he preferred to build sand castles near our parents. I decided to go into the ocean have a little fun. I did not have any knowledge of what an under current was, it happened to be particularly strong this day. A few miles north was the Morro Bay Pier, I walked along the shore towards the pier with the water at my kneecaps. Slowly the water rose, and I did not pay attention to it until the water was near my nipples. I knew I was in the water too deep, so with all my might I attempted to swim for the shore. No matter how hard I tried, I did not get any closer to the shore. Moments seemed like hours as I frantically tried to swim to shore, yelling out for help every so often only to receive a mouth full of salt water. Weak from exhaustion, I started to slow down as my hope of reaching the shore faded. All of a sudden, two wrinkled hands grabbed one arm a piece and picked me out of the water like nothing. The elder ladies walked me to the shore and laid me on the sand. They stayed with me and made sure I was still breathing before they allowed me to rejoin my family. I don’t think that my family even knows about that near death experience. I never said a word.