The recent events in Afghanistan have left some veterans dealing with a variety of difficult emotions. Organizations in the community have stepped up and are offering support during what is a difficult time for many.
The sound of crashing waves and the expanse of blue water helps one vet clear his mind and focus on one thing, catching the next wave.
"It changed my life, my family's life and it gave me community," said veteran Neil Hancox.
Hancox joined operation surf in 2018 with encouragement from his wife.
"I got out there and met other people that were a lot like me, dealing with similar obstacles in life. Through that, we built a community," said Hancox.
Hancox was living in Fresno with his family when he started surfing. The activity had such a positive impact on his life that they decided to move to the Central Coast so he could surf more often.
"We started a whole new healthy, active life. My life has done nothing but improve since," said Hancox.
"Being in the ocean is usually distracting or taking away a lot of the opportunities that allows the mind to think the things that it thinks," said Operation Surf Founder Van Curaza.
At the start of the pandemic Operation Surf created a virtual chat room called the canteen. It's a place where vets in the program and alums could go to maintain their sense of community while staying socially distant.
In light of recent events in Afghanistan, Operation Surf has created another canteen chat room, this one open to all vets anywhere in the country with a goal of creating a support system in a safe space and letting them know they aren't alone.
"The new Canteen that we put on there for support for the Afghanistan stuff is open to any veterans and our veterans in our community," said Curaza.
Hancox said he has friends who served in Afghanistan who participate in the canteen chat room. He hears their struggles which are similar to the ones he experiences as a veteran who served in Iraq.
"We share with each other what we can do today, to you know, get through the day and make it the best day possible," said Hancox.
Hancox uses the canteen regularly to connect with veterans from all over the nation. He said his motivation to use the virtual platform was to support other vets, but the sense of community also helped him.
"The Canteen is always open to all veterans and we've got a community here for you. Just know that you don't have to go through it alone," said Hancox.
Any veteran who would like to join the CanteenChat can access the link on operationsurf.org. The Operation Surf website also has information about how to join the organization and volunteer opportunities.