The squad had assembled, ready for their mission. After a short boat ride they were ready to begin. Entering the icy water, their only goal was to get back to shore.
For Las Positas College student Justin Paige, it was his time to shine.
Paige took part in the veterans’ event “Take Back the Rock” on Sunday, Sept. 28. Paige was the lone representative from LPC in the swim.
Paige is entering his third semester with the college after completing his contract with the United States Marine Corps. He served on the USS San Antonio stationed out of North Carolina.
When Paige left the corps he came to LPC and immediately involved himself in the Veterans First program. He currently works in the LPC Veterans center as part of a work-study program with Veterans First Advisor Todd Steffan.
“He is very active in the student veterans organization,” Steffan said. “He has gotten very involved in what he can do serving vets.”
Steffan was happy to see one of his students participate in the swim. There were three previous students who were going to attempt it but were unable to make the trials last year.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said Steffan. “It’s not a matter of going out and swimming, he’s putting in the time on his own.
“Justin was all over that. He was really excited about doing that.”
After signing up for the event, Paige faced three trials before he could be officially qualified for the event. According to Paige the trials were about safety and making sure that you would be able to make it through the event.
“They make you do three different trials and you have to pass these trials or they will not let you swim,” Paige said. “Forty-three people went to qualify and only 20 did.”
After making sure he ate healthy and had lots of cardio exercise, Paige was ready for the draining swim.
From the onset of the event, Paige felt at home.
“It was put on by the Vietnam Veterans of Diablo Valley so there were a lot of Vietnam vets there so it was really cool to work with them,” said Paige. “It was really great to see the diversity, all of us mixed in, all of us talking. They had breakfast out there for us at five in the morning; everybody was very excited.”
The boat carrying the swimmers took them just off Alcatraz where the swim began. For Paige, the hardest part wasn’t the temperature, but the current
“The current was probably the biggest challenge,” Paige said. “I spent more time swimming to my left than I did swimming straight. I had my own kayak guy next to me the whole way, because you can’t really see to make sure you know where you are going, but he could. He would say ‘go more left, go more left’ because the current kept taking me.”
When the event comes around next year Justin will not hesitate to participate.
“It was really awesome. I plan on doing it again.”