TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, CA – In the early hours of June 21, 2015
... Air Force Master Sgt. Andrew Mujica took to the chilly waters off Alcatraz Island and swam a mile and a half to the Crissy Field shoreline with one thing in mind... to honor his father on Father's Day
Air Force Master Sgt. Andrew Mujica participated in the June 21, 2015, Alcatraz Challenge swim in San Francisco to raise money for research into a neuromuscular disease that affects his father.
(Courtesy photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Andrew Mujica)
Wearing a full-body wetsuit and hoodie, the 38-year-old
noncommissioned officer in charge of product improvement for
the 60th Maintenance Group here battled currents, winds,
waves, chop and frigid waters during the Alcatraz Challenge
Mujica said when he arrived here in 2000
that he immediately became "addicted" to California's
triathlon circuit, competing in one or two events a month
during the season.
But for the first time in his
competitive career, the Georgia native was racing June 21
for much more than a time goal or a medal. He was racing to
raise funds for a deeply personal cause: his father, Noberto Mujica, who was diagnosed with
myasthenia gravis disease, better known as MG, in 2008.
MG is a chronic neuromuscular disease characterized by
varying degrees of muscle weakness. For his father, Mujica
said, the disorder affects everything from chewing and
talking to simple facial expressions and walking.
"It's a tough disease to see," he added. "Witnessing how
this has affected him over the years, I just wanted to do
something more to help."
About a week before the
event, Mujica said, he searched the Internet for ways to
raise funds for MG research and share his story. By the day
of the event, he had raised nearly $600. "It just so
happened that this race was on Father's Day,” he said, “and
I thought this would be a great opportunity to honor him."
A Difficult Swim
For 56 minutes and 53 seconds,
Mujica honored his father in the cloud-covered waters of the
San Francisco Bay, enduring what he called the most
difficult swim he had ever done.
"It's a little bit
intimidating, because you have nothing to support you out
there," he said. "At one point, you are three-quarters of a
mile away from any shoreline. It's just you and the water,
and there is definitely no bottom of the pool to be looking
Though he's accustomed to the physical
exhaustion associated with open-water swims, the whitecap
waves crashing down on him made it difficult for him to
breathe and get into a rhythm, Mujica said. On that day, he
added, he relied on something more than experience and
training. He relied on his father's strength.
"Whenever I would get tired and needed that extra
motivation, I'd think about him," he said. "He gave me the
strength to push a little harder."
not compete in the run portion of the Alcatraz Challenge. He
just wanted to simply complete the swim one more time before
his impending move to a new duty assignment, he explained.
"I started to kick myself when I saw the runners on the
drive home," he said with a laugh. "But I just wanted to do
the swim one last time. I'll probably never be swimming from
Alcatraz Island again, so I just wanted to take my time,
soak it all in and enjoy the view of the Golden Gate
[Bridge] from the middle of the bay."
After arriving on the shoreline of Crissy
Field, all that was left was a simple text and phone call to
"He was proud," Mujica said. "I just
wanted to raise awareness about MG any way I could [and] to
inspire others to try and do the same. This was my way of
honoring my father on Father's Day."
By U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Charles Rivezzo
DOD News / Defense Media Activity
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