Beliefnet
Inspiration Report

Rebekah Marine

Rebekah Marine/SleeperAwake

Rebekah Marine is the bionic model.

Born with Symbrachydactyly, a congenital abnormality that results in missing or malformed hands and limbs, Marine is missing her right forearm. But she’s never considered it a disability—only a difference. And now she’s using that difference to not only make a big splash in the world of fashion, but to break through the barriers which typically inform the way we look at those with visible disabilities.

In an interview with the Daily Beast, Marine says that growing up with her limb difference never caused any issues with her friends, family, or classmates.

That all changed, however, when she decided to model.

“As a kid, I always wanted to model. I really enjoyed being in front of the camera. I was really such a ham,” she says, in the interview.

As she underwent audition after audition, she faced numerous rejections.

“I didn’t fully understand why they wouldn’t consider me as a model. It became challenging for me to grasp that the idea they really wouldn’t take me seriously. It never really dawned on me. Then, towards high school, I started to realize, ‘Okay, hey, I am different.’ That’s when I started to shy away from the camera.”

Like many before her, Marine sometimes faces social consequences because her body is physically different from that of those around her—it is common for those who are disabled to experience disgrace, isolation, shame, and unfair rejection.

Temporarily setting aside her modeling dreams, Marine attended and graduated from Rowan University before moving on to a full-time job in the sales industry. But she wouldn’t stay out of the modeling industry for long.

Marine briefly wore a mechanical prosthetic when in elementary school, but found it too difficult to use at the time. At age 22, however, she began her search for a prosthetic again. As she was considering her options, a friend suggested that she model with a prosthetic and look into becoming a spokesperson for the company that produces it.

That suggestion revived Marine’s original aspirations, and once she was fitted with her new arm, she wasted no time in getting in contact with a local photographer, setting up a photo shoot, and starting in on building a modeling portfolio. In 2013, Marine signed with Models of Diversity, an organization which matches disabled models up with designers and career opportunities.

Things only went up from there, and it wasn’t long before Marine successfully became a spokesperson for Touch Bionics, manufacturer of her stylish i-limb quantum prosthetic hand.

And not long after, woman who was once told that modeling wasn’t for her walked in New York Fashion Week, appearing in the FTL Moda show in September of 2015.

“It’s been quite a journey for me. It was hard at first to put myself out there for the whole world to see,” Marine told People. “But I’ve become quite comfortable with myself now, and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.”

Marine is now not only a model, but an inspirational speaker and a humanitarian as well, and has gone on to become one of the most recognizable figures in the disabled community. Her fame and success inspire those with disabilities to believe not only that they can achieve their dreams, but that they are whole, valid, and valuable people. Her efforts to raise awareness of disability issues is generating a new level of empathy for those with physical differences.

“It’s so important to include more diverse models, because after all, nearly one in five people in America have a disability,” she told Mashable. “We should be celebrating uniqueness, not conforming to what the media thinks is beautiful.”

Shannon Boxx was one of the world’s all-time great defensive midfielders and a former member of the United States women’s national soccer team. After she retired in 2015, she took on another rival, this time off the soccer field. Boxx was diagnosed with lupus in 2007 at the age of 30 during the height of her career playing for the U.S. National Team. Five years later, she went public with her lupus diagnosis.

First, what is Lupus? “Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease in which a person’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues, cells and organs (www.lupusresearch.org).” Lupus can damage any part of the body, including skin, joints, and/or organs inside the body (Lupus Foundation of America, LFA, www.lupus.org) and there is no known cure. According to the Lupus Foundation of America, the disease impacts 1.5 million people.

Depending on the severity of the disease, it can cause varying amounts of damage to joints, skin, kidneys, blood, the heart and the lungs. For Boxx, she was playing through throbbing pain in her joints and extreme fatigue. There was more, she was also diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune in which your body attacks your moisture-producing glands.

“I remember barely being able to walk up a set of stairs to my apartment and believed that this was very different for me, so I went to see a bunch of doctors and it took me six years for them to get me the right diagnoses,” she recalled. “I remember being open and honest with my doctor because that was a huge part of how they were able to diagnose me.”

She could have given up after the first or second year.

“But I had to be a self-advocate early on. I kept pushing them and I really wanted to understand my body and fight for [the] answers. At that time, I was playing at an elite level. I had bad days and that’s the thing about lupus, its unpredictable.”

We asked Tania González-Rivera, an Immuno-Inflammation Medical Director with GSK pharmaceuticals, why the disease is troublesome to diagnose.

“It’s a complicated disease and it is chronic. Symptoms sometimes are not very specific. There are no blood tests, so there has to be a high degree of suspicion. It is good for patients to be advocates for themselves and bring all that information to their physicians so we are able to make diagnoses.”

Once Boxx became public with lupus after so many years, the healing process started because she had the support around her. That helped her continue to play under sometimes intense pain.

This also prompted her to become more active with the Lupus Foundation of America and to support causes and projects that further the mission of finding a cure. She also wants people to stop suffering in silence.

Boxx is more than her diagnoses. She has two children and they keep her busier than she ever was am an athlete.

“They made me even more aware of how I need to take care of myself. Again, I have stayed open and honest with my doctor and have come up with plans that have really helped me manage my symptoms. I have the same motto that I had as a player. If I have a bad day, I am going to get up and try again.”

Bend the Arc Jewish Action announced its plans to mobilize American Jews nationwide to participate in Rise Up! on May 1.

The movement is in response to “President Trump’s radical, anti-immigrant agenda, including his attacks on sanctuary cities and harsh deportation and detention policies,” said the organization’s press release. The protest will include rallies, protests and town halls organized by grassroots organizations nationwide. CEO of Bend the Arc Jewish Action, Stosh Cotler believes that America needs to go into a high-alert mode because of the Trump’s policies. The grassroots resistance will encourage Muslims, immigrants and refugees to participate in order to stop the White House from targeting marginalized groups.

“Any time a leader tries to explain economic and social ills, real or fabricated, by scapegoating and stereotyping a community in our midst, all of us are endangered. Many of our parents’ and grandparents’ ancestors were targeted with this kind of abuse when they first arrived in this country,” said Cotler. “President Trump may have forgotten that, but we have not. We are proud to stand with today’s immigrants to resist these attacks on their communities and defeat immoral policies that threaten their safety and wellbeing. Together, we will ‘rise up’ to stop Trump’s anti-American agenda and work toward a society that treats immigrants and all people with the dignity they deserve.”

The organization believes that America doesn’t work without immigrants. “On May 1st, we will not work, we will not go to school, we will not shop to show that our country will not move forward without our immigrant neighbors.”

On May 1 people are encouraged not to work, not go to school and encouraged to not shop to show that the country will not move forward without “our immigrant neighbors.” Also, according to the group, they are fighting against a planned massive deportation by the administration that will destroy families.

Bend the Arc Jewish Action also organized a campaign to stop the nomination of now Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and called for Trump to fire White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, who they believe is a white supremacist.

Have you ever wondered what it takes to serve aboard a Navy submarine? To even be eligible, hopefuls must pass a rigorous series of psychological evaluations, intensive courses, and grueling tests. And once aboard, crewmen shoulder an 18-hour schedule that is divided into 6 hours of sleep, 6 hours of work, and 6 hours of training, drills, and sometimes a little free time.

According to Navy officials, these sailors are some of the most highly trained people in the Navy—training that is very necessary when operating in the deadly depths of the world’s oceans. The training involved is both technical and broad, as each member of the crew must possess the knowledge required to operate and service every piece of equipment aboard in order to respond to emergencies.

In short, it’s a hard job that only the best members of the U.S. Navy can do.

One of these highly skilled servicemen is Chesapeake, Virginia native and native and Deep Creek High School graduate Shea Roach, who now serves aboard the USS Tennessee—one of the world’s most advanced ballistic missile submarines.

Petty Officer 1st Class Roach is a nuclear-trained machinist’s mate whose duties include operating, repairing, and maintaining his submarine’s propulsion machinery and related equipment—he keeps the reactor systems of the vessel running smoothly. And that’s no small tasks when your’re running hundreds of feet below the surface of the ocean.

The challenges of serving aboard a submarine are great, but so is the reward. These men—and now women, as well—give up the sun, eschewing the surface world in service to the greater good. And in giving up the sky for a few months in a dark, metal tube, they help safeguard our nation by ensuring the Navy’s submarines are operating at their best and are ready to respond to any emergency at a moment’s notice.

But despite the sacrifice, cramped conditions, and long hours, Shea Roach is focused on the bigger picture, and remains positive about his position. “The best part of being stationed on the submarine is the closeness of this group of people,” says Roach, according the Navy Office of Community Public Affairs. “The Navy has opened my eyes to different cultures and given me the opportunity to work with people from different backgrounds.”

Submariners typically deploy for six months at a time, during which they conduct a variety of missions vital to the security of the nation. Nuclear-powered submarines are powerful vessels that are limited only by the amount of food they are able to store aboard—their reactors last for the life of the ship, and air and water are constantly generated. The Navy’s ballistic missile submarines—affectionately called “boomers,” according to the Navy—act as undetectable launch platforms for intercontinental ballistic missiles, and are designed for stealth and extended missions.

This is one job that this Virginia will likely remember for the rest of his life—as much for the cramped spaces and shared bunks as for the opportunity to serve his country in one of the most unique and challenging ways possible.