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Years ago a teammate and I had dreamed up some travels to visit some famed surf spots. My teammate and friend insisted Costa Rica be at the top of the list as he had visited there before.  I had never been. During a trip to Hawaii he recounted several surf sessions in Costa Rica which I found funny considering we were in the birthplace of surfing at the time.  Unfortunately, my friend passed away while on a deployment in Afghanistan and we never got to go on those surf trips together.

Fast forward a few years and while on a deployment overseas I received an email which started the discussion of taking my fallen brother’s daughter on a surf trip to Costa Rica, a trip they had also planned to take together one day. Shortly after returning from deployment I found myself on a plane with this incredible young woman and one of her mentors. The three of us arrived in paradise later that day.

The girls were signed up for surf instruction throughout the week.  The first few days were spent surfing and teaching her a song on the ukelele. We took advantage of all the other things our part of Costa Rica had to offer.  We went to watch sea turtles one night at a secluded beach make the long trek up the beach to build their nests and return to the ocean. We also went on a boat ride through the estuary near the surf school to see a wide array of animals from monkeys to crocodiles. The longest trip was mid-week, we went to a nearby national park with one of the country’s many volcanoes. During that trip we went on a zip line tour through the jungle, a whitewater tubing adventure and horseback riding; it was an incredible day.

On the final day of surfing the students “graduated” to a more advanced surf break. We loaded up the vans and made the journey to a break where the students would be allowed to surf at their own pace and try the different waves at this location. It was great to see the girls surfing and smiling from ear to ear after every ride. It was with this final trip that I felt she was ready for a special challenge once we returned to the resort.

I suggested she get ready for one more surf, a surf during sunset on a board I brought with me, one of her father’s surfboards. With a lot of excitement we made the paddle out to the waves and got ready to surf the smaller, more challenging surfboard. After a few tries and some tired arms we made one more attempt…I clapped and “yahooed” while I watched her ride this wave all the way to the beach. When I paddled in after her, I met her hugging her mentor and when she turned around to me tears were streaming down her face in the light of the setting sun. After a big hug and a few words we could tell that they were tears of joy with the fulfillment of a dream trip that she and her father had spoken about. It was truly a magical moment that I was honored to have been a part of.

A huge thank you to the Word of Honor Fund and all it’s donors for making this trip happen for her.  Both her mentor and I are extremely grateful to have been chosen to go on this trip of a lifetime with her. It was a trip I will never forget as well.

WoHF mentor

Samantha lost her father when he was killed in action when his helicopter was struck by enemy fire August 6, 2011.  At 17, Samantha is the oldest child in the Word of Honor Fund family.  The Fund is honored to be able to make this Capstone experience possible for her and her mentors.  We hope Samantha returns one day as a mentor herself.