A ride without a destination

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by wittyusername, Sep 7, 2019.

  1. wittyusername

    wittyusername This is the spot for my custom title

    Joined:
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    On Thursday I was typing on my computer at an IHOP about 15 minutes outside of New Orleans when I saw a message from my cousin Brandon. He said it’d be great to see me if I was passing through Texas.

    My uncle moved his family from S. FL to Texas about 25 years ago. I don’t see the Whites very often. None of us do. In fact, I was the first family member to visit the Whites in Texas.

    I did a quick search and saw that it was 500 miles away. It was a beautiful day (at first)...screw it...”I’ll see you tonight bro!” He wasn’t expecting me to take him up on his offer so quickly.

    It was a long day in the saddle. I didn’t want to say this outright but I hope they recognized that I tortured myself with an 9 hour motorcycle ride in the cold rain as a gesture for the love of my family. I’d do anything for family. It was great to see them.

    I once read that POWs in Vietnam would build houses in their mind to keep from going insane while in captivity. They’d imagine building a house step-by-step. Digging a hole and putting the dirt in a wheelbarrow. Mixing the concrete. Framing the house. They wouldn’t cut corners - it was all done in real time in their mind. If it took 20 shovel loads of dirt to fill a wheelbarrow, then they imagined all 20 shovel loads. It was an exercise to keep their mind busy.

    I do the same thing on a smaller scale when I’m riding. My mind is somewhere else. I’m writing stories in my mind. Remembering precise details. Wordsmithing how I want to tell a story. When the story is complete, it’s like I snap out of a trance and realize I just rode 90 miles. Then it’s time to put the story down in a tangible format.

    I typed up a 7 page story that I wrote in my head while I was riding across Louisiana. I added it to my ADV thread while at Brandon’s house.

    I spent 2 nights at Brandon’s house visiting with family. I learned things about my family that I didn’t know...and they were able to see a glimpse of their weird relative that they only heard stories of.

    Brandon has a great job, a beautiful home, and a beautiful new wife. Welcome to the family Stephanie. Oh...please don’t tell my dogs that 2 other dogs were on my bike.

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  2. wittyusername

    wittyusername This is the spot for my custom title

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    Ah man...I have a feeling you’re gonna make me tell some of my crash stories while at camp. Let’s not forget the time you inhaled a truckload of silt...like you were Tony Montana...and threw up for the next 5 minutes. Haha. Baja...
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  3. wittyusername

    wittyusername This is the spot for my custom title

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    It’s been a relaxing few days with old friends. I knew John lived in Texas but wasn’t exactly sure where. Turns out he lived 15 minutes from where I was staying. What are the odds?

    I haven’t seen John since I got out of the Army in 2005. We were in the same Basic Training class, the same Airborne Class, the same RIP class (Ranger Indoctrination Program). We made it to the same Ranger Battalion (2/75) and were even teammates in the same squad. We started out as M240b assistant machine gunners.

    After I got out, John transferred into a different Army unit and continued to fight for an additional 10 years. He and his team have more combat time than you’d believe. The heavy lifting is being carried out by a minuscule number of operators. These men deserve accolades. Yet, they’re true quiet professionals.

    We had lunch twice in 2 days. We sat and talked for over 8 hours total. We had a lot to catch up on. I wouldn’t be surprised if John is awarded the MOH eventually. I’m in awe. He attributed his success to the leaders who guided us / raised us as new Ranger Privates during a brief window in time.

    We are who we are because of the men we served with as Army Rangers.

    The picture of John and I was taken in Afghanistan. Fast forward 9 years...that is the very same base where Brett and I met and founded RaceForTheWounded.

    RLTW

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  4. wittyusername

    wittyusername This is the spot for my custom title

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    When I left Florida I wasn’t sure how long it’d take me to get to Montgomery, TX for Colin Edward’s motorcycle camp. So, I put in some long days to make sure I had plenty of time to rest before camp.

    The rush to get to Texas was nice because I was able to visit with some friends and family around TX. I spent the past few days with The Madcow. A walking legend. He’ll even tell you so himself.

    I pull up in the driveway...my helmet wasn’t off for 30 seconds and he’s putting a Texas whiskey in my hand. Damn it’s good to see The Madcow.

    One night he took me to visit one of his vanilla suburban friends. None of Madcow’s friends think other people like him exist. They think he’s an oddity. It was good to meet his friends but I’m pretty sure he was mostly showing me off to verify that they were, in fact, the weird ones. Hah!.

    I fixed his garage door opener while he was at work yesterday because that’s what friends do for each other. He came home from work while I was on the ladder...got dressed for the gym...then he comes back into the garage with tequila shots. We took a few shots of celebration tequila for my garage fix. Fucking Madcow...tequila and pre-workout before the gym.

    For reference, I’m standing 2 feet in front of him in the picture. He’s a damn giant and one of my best friends.

    If you ever meet him, ask him about the time he gave Condoleezza Rice a piggyback ride in Baghdad.

    You’ll never make friends like the ones you made in a combat zone.

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  5. wittyusername

    wittyusername This is the spot for my custom title

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    I arrived at Texas Tornado Boot Camp last night! This place is unbelievable. I’ll write a lot more when I have time.

    I helped get the bikes ready before the rest of the students arrived. 16 PSI front. 32 PSI rear.

    I can’t say enough good things about the instructors and the facilities. But I will...stand by..

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  6. steved57

    steved57 Been here awhile Supporter

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    Very cool - have fun !!

    I got to see Colin in his start in road racing in CMRA in fact I bought his Yamaha TZ250 from him and raced it for several years before buying a newer one
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  7. wittyusername

    wittyusername This is the spot for my custom title

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    It's been a long day in Montgomery, Texas. It's 9:45pm on the night of day 1 at the Texas Tornado Boot Camp. Dinner is complete, there's a cooler full of beer next to the bonfire outside, and I'm sitting next to a replica of the Honda that Colin rode (and won) the worlds superbike championships as I type this ADV thread. I'm sitting in a museum of motorcycle legends...and it's just the student common area.

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    It's been a good day.

    I plan on writing extensively about my experiences while at camp. I don't want to gloss over anything because it wouldn't be fair to the instructors or to the quality of these world class facilities. I posted a few teaser pictures as an appetizer. And if you're following me on Instagram, then you'll see some videos of the facilities too.

    I arrived at camp yesterday and it already feels like weeks ago. Before I arrived at camp and after I left Madcow's house, I took a detour through Houston to visit a good friend. None of you know exactly why I'm taking this trip or exactly why I'm making this intimately personal moto-journal public knowledge. One of the reasons why I'm opening the door and allowing you into my world is to help you understand or connect with the men who raised their right hand and swore an oath to defend our country against all enemies - foreign and domestic. One of the keys to understanding who we are is to understand how we say goodbye to our fallen brothers.

    I took a detour through Houston to visit one of my closest friends who's buried at the Houston National Cemetery.

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  8. wittyusername

    wittyusername This is the spot for my custom title

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    I joined the Army after I graduated college in Jan 2001. I had no idea of the storm on the horizon. No one did. I was nose down in my own little world trying to figure out how to survive as a brand-new Army Ranger private. I was living in the barracks while I waited to tie up some loose ends before I found an apartment with my wife.

    The night of September 10th was a late night…out doing Ranger stuff. I’m sure whatever we were up to, I was cold and hungry while I was doing it. Since we were out so late, we had a late work-call that next day. I welcomed the rare opportunity to sleep in during the week. I just arrived at 2nd Rangers a few weeks earlier and didn’t feel like I earned the right to sleep in yet. I didn’t bother with a fitted sheet or even a proper blanket for the mattress. I just slept on the bare mattress with my trusty poncho liner (woobie).

    On the morning of the 11th, Specialist Breed banged on the door as he threw it open. The sudden blast of the fluorescent overhead lights reminded me of rude wake ups in basic training. Damnit…I thought we were past this nonsense.

    My roommate and I jumped up and stood at parade rest next to our beds – wondering what the hell he was doing waking us up so early. Our hands were interlocked behind our backs. Standing tall waiting for direction or for Spc Breed to haze us. We were both brand new. We were given permission to skip PT that morning so I was clueless why he’d barge in so early. But, we wouldn’t dare question our team leader. Our role was to listen and act as quickly as possible.

    I jumped out of bed and stood there in my silky Ranger PT shorts wondering why Spc. Breed was turning on the TV. I was confused, groggy, and probably dehydrated. “Hey, wake up, we’re going to war,” he softly said.

    “What?”

    He turned the TV on and the towers were gone. Just a pile of dust and debris. It didn’t take long to find a channel covering the event. It was on every channel. My Ranger Buddy / roommate was from NYC. He was silent when we watched the towers fall repeatedly on the TV. This was a direct attack against him and his home. John was a college professor in NYC. He also used to be somewhat of an icon in the Manhattan Lindy Hop dance community. I vaguely remember a story about a dance studio near the top of tower 2. John would eventually trade in his Ranger Tan Beret for a Special Forces Green one.

    Since that moment, that terrifying and exciting moment, my life has been a roller coaster. Never enough time. Always gone. Sacrificing for others.

    A lot of people died on 9/11. And too many more since that calm September morning. I’ve lost too many friends. Too many good people are gone. I’ve missed almost all of the funerals. I said goodbye in my own way on my own time but it never felt the closure I needed. I was always deployed or tied up with life’s other seemingly important obligations.

    For the first time in my life, I was given the opportunity to say goodbye the ‘proper way’.

    The story below is an open wound. I wrote it on the airplane coming back from the funeral. Emotions were still raw. It’s an intimate look into my world and how we Sheepdogs were able to say goodbye to a brother. As far as funerals go, this was perfect. As unusual as that sounds, it was a perfect send off. Ryan’s funeral had all the benchmarks of a hero’s sendoff. Traditional catholic service. Bag pipes. Amazing Graze. Local VFW heroes. Police escort. National Cemetery burial. 3-rifle volley. Drinks and stories with his dad. Etc. It’s all below.

    I now finally understand why we have silly traditions when a loved one passes. The traditions are there to help the living say goodbye, let go, and move on.

    For the first time, I feel the closure. Saying goodbye to Ryan helped me say goodbye to everyone I’ve lost…all at once. It was a rush of emotion and pain. It’s as if I was holding on to something…waiting to release them.

    So thank you to Jay Blessing, Pat Tillman, Ricardo Barazza, Dale Brehm, Dustin Goodro, Isaac Reyes, and Ryan Blake for being in my life and shaping who I am today. You’re gone but not forgotten.


    I wrote the story below as if you’re ease dropping in on a private conversation. It’s an intimate look at how sheepdogs pick up the pieces and continue the mission…without their friends.



    For Ryan, the Blake family, and absent friends.




    Hey Bullseye,

    So sorry you couldn't make it.

    Ryan meant a lot to all of us. But, I know how close you two were. I spoke to him the night he returned from his last trip and, as always, you were a topic of conversation. You’re a common thread between a lot of us. Todd, you are more respected within the community than you know. He had tremendous respect for you…more than I can articulately describe in this letter. It was more than just respect – it was closer to admiration. He really looked up to you. As do I. Ryan thought the world of you and trusted you with his life. He would follow you to hell and back. We already did a few trips to hell. Hell isn’t so bad as long as your friends are with you. After all, it’s only Shkin deep.

    Since you couldn't be there, I'll do my best to paint the scene with words. I’m gonna write it like a journal entry…from my perspective…with my thoughts. I hope this doesn’t come off as too narcissistic. But, I can only write it from my point of view.

    I flew into San Antonio on the 8th. Madcow picked me up and together we drove over to Katy, TX that afternoon. It would have been way more efficient to fly straight into Houston. It would have cut hours off my travel time. But spending some time driving with Madcow was well worth it.

    Since my injury, I’ve been starving to see my work family. The 5-hour detour was welcomed just to get to spend a few hours driving with Madcow. Greg is the same. Larger than life. Loud. Animated. A fish out of water when he doesn’t have a knee on an Iraqi’s neck. A loyal friend forever.

    I wasn’t ready to stop contracting. I’m still not ready. I miss it all the time. When I first started deploying…it was for the mission. To support U.S. effort and to carry on the work. Damnit, I was happy to just open the Red gate at the Main site for VIPs to roll through. So naive. I was proud to open that stupid gate. I could have been replaced by a garage door opener…but I was part of the mission once again. Just a small cog in the machine. At that time, you must earn the right to go to the cool sites. So, I put in my time opening gates.

    My love for the mission quickly faded and took a back-seat to the paycheck. Those NASCAR paychecks were unbelievable at first. It was like winning the lottery every 30 days. And eventually, those paychecks were just a bonus I got for hanging out with my friends and doing cool shit. The money was nice but honestly, I would do it for half the pay.

    This reunion was a reminder of how much I truly miss my work friends. I wasn’t ready to stop contracting. I got hurt at requal and that was it. It’s over. I never got a chance to say goodbye to my friends. I never had that last trip to say, “I’m done-done.”

    Before Greg and I left town, I met Greg's wife and got a tour of casa de Madcow. When I met her, she extended her arm to shake my hand like I was a stranger on the street. Bullshit…I gave her a big ‘ol hug. She doesn’t know it, but we’re family. It's surreal to link up with overseas friends back in the real world. Greg threw his suit in the car and we drove straight to the church to do a quick recon of the area.

    Greg drives like he's back in Baghdad...holy fuck. All gas and brake. Quick lane changes at unsafe speeds. I was surprised we didn't counter-flow when traffic forced us to slow down to 90. Hah! Madcow is a little insane. But then again, aren’t we all?

    We found a hotel and then identified the best route from the hotel to the church. Timed it, then the route was properly AFAMed. Complete with alternative routes. It just makes sense for us to over plan. We settled in and I forgot what it was like to share a room with another dude. It’s a good thing I’ve acquired the skills necessary to sleep through anything. Madcow snores like a goddamn champion.

    Ryan’s day. The service started at 11am.

    Madcow and I arrived at the church around 10:30am. I wish we arrived earlier because there was an amazing display in the foyer outside of the great room. I wanted to spend hours in the foyer. I was ready for a difficult day. I bought a new suit. Had it tailored to fit my new skinny (over-stressed) frame. Wore the shirt I was married in last February. My wrist was adorned with a brand-new Breitling that I bought last week in Ryan’s memory. Life is too short and I’ve always wanted this watch. I thought I was mentally ready for the day. I quickly realized how naive that thought was.

    As Madcow and I were pulling into the parking lot, we saw two men dressed in full Scottish garb. The Scots were walking into position to receive guests. Kilt. Beret. Those big socks. The fury pouch thing around their waste. I have no idea what all that stuff is called but they had all the traditional gear. One of the men had a drum across his front. And the other with bag pipes. “Oh fuck, there’s bag pipes”, I said out loud like a retard. Bag pipes have this uncanny ability to cut straight through the toughest of men. Zeus himself would be powerless to hold back a tear when they began to play their harmony.

    The bag piper and drummer were standing in front of the main church doors softly playing something that instantly hit me. It was beautiful. As if honey was dripping form the pipes – I was in a trance. It all suddenly became real. Ryan was gone. We’re never going to see him again. I was holding back tears already and we’re just walking through the parking lot. I didn’t look at Madcow. I knew he was walking directly next to me but I couldn’t see him in my peripheral vision. I was fixated on the music at the end of the sidewalk.

    Ryan's family has a strong Catholic faith and I'm assuming this is the church his parents attend every Sunday. The service was held in a Catholic Church that's 5 minutes from Ryan's house. His parents also lived just a few minutes away. It was a massive church. Elaborate and ornate but modest at the same time. It had numerous beautiful paintings and sculptures that looked like that were from the Renaissance Period. Massive stained-glass windows flanked the great room. It was a modern church with a touch of old world flair.

    Madcow and I walked past the bag piper and the foyer was filled with tributes to Ryan. We stood in the door threshold - I was momentarily paralyzed. I didn’t want to enter because entering the building made it real. Of course, the room was grieving, but I was surprised to see some smiling faces chatting in isolated circles. It didn’t make sense to me.

    To the left of the threshold were two shadow boxes sitting on a table. One has Ryan’s Green Beret and his SF (Special Forces) Flash. The other shadow box was filled with campaign medals, ribbons, awards, badges, etc. Ryan was highly decorated.

    To our right was a massive poster size picture of Ryan wearing his class A uniform and several other memorabilia pieces. Pictures – both smiling and serious. Ryan had that familiar smirk on his face…like he’s in the verge of busting out laughing. Front and center next to the guest book were two framed bronze star award citations. I read the citations and I was in awe. Why do the best ones get taken first?

    There were other massive framed decorations and pictures. It was a lot to take in. I wanted to take pictures but I felt it wasn’t the right time or place to take photographs.

    Someone approached us as we were standing awkwardly in the threshold…paralyzed. At that moment, I didn’t know who she was. It was Nicole (Ryan’s sister). I was not ready for this moment. Pull it together Scott. We made an introduction and I offered my empty condolences. What can I say other than, I’m so sorry. I whispered, “I’m so sorry” several times over. I was awkward. Maybe I wasn’t. But I felt awkward.

    She told me that Ron (Ryan’s dad) wanted to meet us. She left us to go find him. Madcow and I slowly shuffled into the room and I tried to absorb what was happening. I didn’t look at Madcow but I knew he was right next to me. It was comforting to have another brother with me.

    I married my wife last February. We moved in together 9 days after we met. I instantly knew she was the one. We’ve been together for what seems like a blink of an eye. Hard to believe 4 years has gone by so fast. I share everything with her. She knows what I’m thinking before I say it. She can read me like a book. She’s my best friend and my companion. Nothing is ever hidden from her but there’s a side of me that she doesn’t know exists.

    On the surface, I wanted her to be there with me. A wife should be with her husband at a time like this. Her presence usually evokes a wave of calm within me. But this was a side of me that she may not recognize. I rarely share my old life with her. This was a day that I needed to share with my other family. I was glad Madcow was with standing next to me. Very few words were spoken but we knew what each other was thinking.

    There were about 75 people standing in the lobby making small talk as Madcow and I shuffled a few steps into the room.

    Mark walked in right behind us - an overseas contractor friend. Really good to see another familiar face and long-lost brother. We hugged and the reunion was stopped short when Ron came over. I was speechless. I’ve heard so many stories about Mr. Blake. I looked forward to meeting him one day but never thought it’d be under these circumstances. No parent should out-live his child. I didn’t know what to say. I whispered, “I’m so sorry.” I just didn’t know what to say. We made our introductions and he knew us by our callsigns. Ryan must of spoke of us regularly because Mr. Blake knew all of us.

    Ron was holding back tears but had a handshake like a bear. He didn’t know us well enough to break down yet. That time would come. We changed the subject to spare him an emotional breakdown and thanked him for inviting us.

    Jesus fucking Christ man… None of us are ready for this.

    Thomas then Russ emerged from the crowd and helped redirect the conversation. Relief...more contractor brothers. Ryan’s sister (Nicole) joined the circle and we made small talk. I was numb and didn’t know what to say.

    After Ron left the group to visit with family, I felt it was appropriate to ask what Nicole happened to Ryan. Nicole said they are waiting on some results to come back from tissue tests. But, the doctors are leaning towards a brain aneurysm. Nicole said that Ryan passed suddenly and painlessly.

    In the rear-center of the room was an American Flagged draped over a coffin raised up on a table with wheels. There were so many people in the room that I initially didn’t see Ryan over there. The crowd parted and then there he was. I was speechless when I saw the coffin over there. Everyone kept talking in the circle but I was somewhere else. Jesus Christ Scott…pull it together. As Nicole was talking to us, the only thing I could concentrate on was Ryan’s coffin sitting over on the other side of the room. Patiently waiting for us to say goodbye and lay him to rest.

    I couldn’t look at the coffin. I don’t know exactly why. Maybe I knew I’d double over and break down. I just didn’t go over and give the coffin attention. I regret not going over and laying a hand on Ryan’s coffin. I think I was waiting to muster up the courage and gather my strength before I went over and said goodbye.

    While we were making small talk with Nicole, Madison joined the group to say hello. She was exactly as Ryan described her. She was stunning. Ryan constantly bragged that she was equally smart as she was beautiful. He wasn’t exaggerating.

    She didn’t sign up for this. Part of the reason why men like Ryan deploy to the 3rd world is to keep those horrors across the ocean…and out of sight. We deploy again and again to let the innocent and beautiful remain innocent and beautiful. The women who sit at home while their men go off and fight are just as courageous as the men who fight. It’s their innocence we work so hard to preserve and why we are so quiet about what we do. Today, her innocence was shattered and my empty words can never make things right.

    I deployed with Ryan on the trip after he met Madison. Ryan was a different man after Madison entered his life. There was a wave of calm that emanated from him. At first, I found it unnerving. “What happened to Butters, he’s acting all weird?” I thought. I soon realized he was in love. Ryan wasn’t just ‘in love’, he was head over heels madly in love with Madison. Just two weeks before he passed, Ryan and I spoke on the phone and I commented how happy I was that he had such an amazing woman in his life. She was good for him and I could hear it in his voice.

    Before I could find the strength and lay a hand on Ryan’s coffin, they asked everyone to find a seat in the Great Room. Everyone began to shuffle into the Great Room.

    As soon as we entered the Great Room, we saw Thomas again. He was sitting with his wife who was 8 ½ months pregnant. He was clean shaven. Such a rush of extreme emotions. Thomas must have made a deal with the Devil when he was 16 to stop aging. The dude looks like a teenager without his beard. Later on that night we found out that he was 40-something. Incredible.

    I led our group of contractors to the next empty row of seats. We settled in then were made aware that we were sitting in the reserved row. Oops. None of us saw the “Reserved” sign on the pew. I guess we were all somewhere else in our minds. We shuffled back a few rows and quietly waited for the service to start.

    After a minute or two, the family made the slow procession down to the reserved seats as they followed Ryan’s coffin down the aisle. The crisp American Flag was replaced by an all-white drape with a crucifix adorned at the head end.

    The service began.

    The priest was methodical. Checked the boxes. He hit the mark. The service was a typical Catholic service. We stood up, sat down, stood up, sat down. We turned around and shook hands with people when the priest told us to. There was a communion of which none of us knuckle draggers participated in. There were rituals and singing. I followed along in the brochure like I did when I was a kid. I found slight comfort in the procedures.

    About ½ way into the service, the power turned off inside the church. The microphone went quiet. The lights turned off. I thought it was hilarious – Ryan would think so too. I could hear Ryan’s deep laugh about this. “Haha, I got you fuckers.” It wasn’t until the lights turned off that the massive stained-glass windows came into focus. They were amazing. I didn’t even notice them until the lights turned off. I was disappointed when the lights turned back on.

    I’m not one for religion…but this day is not about me. This is a day to support Ryan’s family and help them say goodbye as best we could. Our role for the family would come later.

    I felt dirty in that house of worship. I couldn’t help but to shout brutal obscenities inside my head at the massive Jesus statue displayed behind the alter. How could you take someone like Ryan?! I shot daggers with my eyes at the statue of Jesus on the cross behind the priest. Internally, I was screaming vile and offensive things to the statue of Jesus. I know, it’s juvenile but where else can I direct my anger? I was hit with bursts of utter quiet rage. I was boiling. I had to curl my toes inside my shoes in order to pull myself back to reality. I guess anger somewhere in the grieving process.

    In a very unexpected move, Ryan’s sister Nicole took the stage. He grace and strength immediately pulled me back to reality and reminded me why we were there.

    In 2012 I delivered the eulogy at one of my closest friend’s funeral in Hawaii. Today, I was glad It wasn’t me on stage again. Nicole delivered her brother’s eulogy. My flames of rage were immediately ice cold as I listened to her sobbing. I snapped back to reality. The innocence we work so hard to protect was crumbling around us.

    Ryan spoke of his sister quite often. It was very clear that they were best friends. She spoke from the heart. She was graceful, beautiful, elegant, and courageous as she poured her heart out for all to see. It was a beautiful moment. The flood gates were open. I couldn’t hold back. Tears were streaming down my face. I clinched my jaw down as hard as I could in order to keep my face from contorting.

    ______________________________________________________

    Ryan ‘Butters’ Blake – eulogy by Nicole Minshew

    “Hello and good afternoon. I would like to thank Father Tom for giving me the opportunity to share a few stories about my brother with you today. Thank you to everyone who has shown my family such kindness and compassion during this difficult time. Thank you to my parents for making me a big sister and giving us the most wonderful childhood. Most importantly, thank you to God for giving Ryan life and letting us love him for 32 years.

    It is my greatest honor to stand before you today. My brother, Ryan was an incredible man and my words could never describe the extraordinary love he gave to our family and friends. From the first day of his life, Ryan was our pride and joy. He was actually named for my dad. When they moved here from Chicago he would introduce himself as Ron and Texans would say "Ryan?" He would respond "no, Ron" and the name Ryan became very familiar to them and the name they chose for their son.

    Ryan had a smile and a presence that brought light and comfort to everyone. Through the course of this week I have spoken with many people who knew Ryan and the one thing that everyone has said about my brother was that he had a heart of gold. He always strived to make his family proud. He cherished our sweet mother and always took care of the ones he loved. When he was home, he would come over in the evenings and sharpen the kitchen knives, cook dinner, clean the pool, water the plants, raise butterflies and rescue baby birds with my mom. He was our father's best friend. They would spend hours together talking about his work and weapons and politics. They enjoyed golfing and fishing, going to the range and smoking cigars. We will always mourn his loss but seek to honor his life of love and achievements. Ryan was a beloved son and brother, an amazing uncle to my kids, a friend, a soul mate, a comrade, and a soldier but above all he was a hero. He lived his life to protect the lives of others. He served our country for 6 years and earned the highest honors as a Special Forces soldier. He completed his medic training as an 18 Delta and went on to care for his team and his brothers and saved many civilian lives. Ryan earned 2 Bronze stars for his heroism and actions overseas and we could not have been more proud of his accomplishments. He was given the call sign "Butters" by his fellow Green Berets after the South Park character Butters Stoch. He was named Butters for his bright blonde hair, but also because of his cheerful, sweet, optimistic, wholesome and happy disposition. Ryan was known as Butters even after he retired from the Army in his work as an Independent contractor overseas. He never spoke much of his job and we did not know him in this capacity but there has been an outpouring of love and support from the men that he worked with and many are here to pay their respects today. One in particular wrote this about my brother... Ryan was highly respected in the community. He was self-less, courageous, put others first, always offered to help, and he was tactically proficient. He was a true quiet professional. He ran towards the sound of gunfire and he was the first person to offer aid when someone was hurt. Ryan saved dozens of lives throughout his time contracting. He was one of the best human beings I've ever met. "

    Ryan's legacy is his love for his family, his brothers, and his country. He paid the ultimate sacrifice because his heart of gold was too kind and gentle to endure the suffering and devastation that he witnessed in this world. He often wondered if God would forgive him for the things he had done but I have no doubt that He has healed his soul. In Revelation 21:3-4, the Bible says...

    I heard a loud voice from the throne. The voice said, "Now God's home is with men. He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, sadness, crying, or pain. All the old ways are gone."

    I pray that Ryan now knows this peace and that the burden he has carried on his heart has been lifted. He will live on forever in our memories and our broken hearts. My son asked me the other day, Momma why is everyone so sad when Uncle Ry Ry has gone to be with God in Heaven? And although I know he is right, I will still miss my brother every day.

    My dad said something very profound to me once and I have held onto this during such times of sadness and loss. He said, "you know, Cole, the older I get and the more time I spend in mass I realize that we are not Earthly beings on a spiritual journey, but spiritual beings on an Earthly journey." This has brought me such peace during this time and it is the reason I will not say goodbye to my brother today, but I'll see you later Ryan. God Bless you.

    "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy one of Israel, your Savior." Isaiah 43: 2-3A”


    ______________________________________________________


    There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

    A few days before I flew to Texas, I responded to an e-mail from Mr. Blake thanking him for the details of the service. At the end of my e-mail I said a few words about Ryan. If I knew those words would end up in Ryan’s eulogy, I would have spent more time crafting a longer tribute that represented his second family. Nicole read what I wrote and I was thankful she didn’t name me as the author. My words represented his other family and I was proud to let everyone else know how much we loved him.

    Nicole finished her brother’s eulogy and quietly walked back to her family. The room was thick with sniffling and pain.

    I was relieved when the priest returned to the alter. The priest continued for several more minutes then he thanked us for coming. The service was over but the hard part was yet to come.

    Starting at the front, row by row, everyone made their way outside to front of the church. There was a limo and a hearse waiting at the front. They replaced the American Flag back on Ryan’s coffin when they moved him outside. We shuffled out of the great room and into the lobby where all the tributes to Ryan were removed. I was disappointed they were removed. I just wanted one last look.

    By our nature, we contractors were last out of the church. Putting others first is just something that comes natural to us. Ryan was no different.

    We exited the church doors and slowly walked down a long sidewalk and watched as they loaded Ryan into the hearse. However, we were in the back of the group and couldn’t see Ryan being loaded. It’s ok. We didn’t want to obstruct the view of anyone. Those subtle gestures are largely overlooked in the civilian community and I only speak of it to highlight who Ryan was and the caliber of men who knew him as “Butters”.

    Those bag pipes…those damn bag pipes again. The bag piper played Amazing Grace as Ryan was moved into the hearse. He played loud enough to alert the guard at the gates of Valhalla that another warrior was on the way. It was a knife to my heart.

    Ryan was loaded and the funeral motorcade procession was enroute to Houston National Cemetery. It was a massive procession complete with police escort.

    Ryan was a man who put others first throughout his life. He’d do anything for his family and friends. As a final tribute to Ryan’s selflessness, the city was shut down momentarily while we escorted Ryan to his final resting place. The police shut down Interstate 10 in the middle of the day – in Houston – for Ryan’s motorcade. For a few minutes, the city and everyone else could wait while a hero was being transported across town. The motorcycle police were aggressively maneuvering to keep cars from getting in the way. We were the only cars on the road. We all were incredibly impressed.

    The ride to the cemetery was a welcomed intermission from the gravity of the day. True to his form, Madcow had a flask of whiskey in the glove box. We finished the flask in short order. This was clearly just the appetizer before the big meal later that night.

    We stopped to thank the motorcycle police before we entered the cemetery. They didn’t know Ryan, but honored him tremendously. We made sure to let them know they were appreciated. Hope they didn’t smell the whiskey on our breath.

    We parked on the side of the road and waked to the open-air structure where Ryan’s coffin was centered. It looked like a concrete gazebo. Whew…it was hot. Very hot. There weren’t enough seats or places to stand in the shade. Of course, we stood in the back directly in the sun so others could enjoy the shade. This is our nature. I was expecting to watch as they lowered Ryan’s coffin into a grave. This was a different set up entirely. It looks like it was designed for maximum efficiency. Which was unnerving.

    Ryan’s sister read a poem that Ryan once shared with me while in Afghanistan. It was such a profound poem that I since tattooed the last stanza on my ribs. This poem has helped me through some challenging times when dealing with challenging ungrateful people. It was the second time today that Nicole read something that spoke directly to me.


    ______________________________________________________

    “The Sheepdogs” by Russ Vaughn

    Most humans truly are like sheep
    Wanting nothing more than peace to keep
    To graze, grow fat and raise their young,
    Sweet taste of clover on the tongue.
    Their lives serene upon Life’s farm,
    They sense no threat nor fear no harm.
    On verdant meadows, they forage free
    With naught to fear, with naught to flee.
    They pay their sheepdogs little heed
    For there is no threat; there is no need.


    To the flock, sheepdog’s are mysteries,
    Roaming watchful round the peripheries.
    These fang-toothed creatures bark, they roar
    With the fetid reek of the carnivore,
    Too like the wolf of legends told,
    To be among our docile fold.
    Who needs sheepdogs? What good are they?
    They have no use, not in this day.
    Lock them away, out of our sight
    We have no need of their fierce might.


    But sudden in their midst a beast
    Has come to kill, has come to feast
    The wolves attack; they give no warning
    Upon that calm September morning
    They slash and kill with frenzied glee
    Their passive helpless enemy
    Who had no clue the wolves were there
    Far roaming from their Eastern lair.
    Then from the carnage, from the rout,
    Comes the cry, “Turn the sheepdogs out!”


    Thus is our nature but too our plight
    To keep our dogs on leashes tight
    And live a life of illusive bliss
    Hearing not the beast, his growl, his hiss.
    Until he has us by the throat,
    We pay no heed; we take no note.
    Not until he strikes us at our core
    Will we unleash the Dogs of War
    Only having felt the wolf pack’s wrath
    Do we loose the sheepdogs on its path.


    And the wolves will learn what we’ve shown before;
    We love our sheep, we Dogs of War.


    ______________________________________________________



    Yes, we do truly love our sheep.

    The color guard honored Ryan with a 3-rifle volley. The shots made some kids cry. The smell of gun powder made me feel at home. The color guard meticulously and slowly removed the flag from Ryan’s coffin. All eyes were on them and they were perfect. They folded the flag per the standard. No red was showing and the stars were exactly where they were supposed to be. Way to go gentlemen.

    The honor guard sergeant inspected the flag, then made a right face. His shoes ‘clinked’ as he made the robotic turns. He marched over to Mr. Blake and presented the flag. “On behalf of the president of the United States, the United States Army, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful sacrifice.” It was just like in the movies. Except this wasn’t a movie. It was a surreal moment that is burned into my mind.

    After Mr. Blake received the flag, the worst song in the world began to play. If I live to be 1,000 years old, I never want to hear Taps again. I’ve lost too many friends. I’ve heard Taps too many times while in remote and austere locations around the 3rd world. I never want to hear that song again.

    The service concluded and we contractors were the last to leave. We stood in the heat…in the back of the crowd and waited for everyone to have their turn saying goodbye to Ryan. I could feel a constant stream of sweat rolling down my back. All the family was now packed up or walking towards their vehicles. All Ryan’s friends said their goodbyes and were walking to their cars. Ryan’s contractor friends stayed and waited until the maintenance workers and cemetery staff loaded Ryan into the specialized golf cart and drove him away.

    We were the last to leave the immediate area. We didn’t talk about it. We all just knew it wouldn’t feel right to leave while Ryan was still on the table. The staff were respectful and careful when they loaded Ryan. Houston treats its heroes well. I was impressed. Ryan was loaded, the doors were shut, and the maintenance worker drove off. That was it. Goodbye my friend.

    As we were walking back to our car, we saw Nicole leaning into an open passenger window of someone’s car. Likely giving directions or coordinating the reception plans. Just as we were passing her, she finished talking and joined us for the walk back. I was in the back of the group. Taking deep breaths. Watching my friends walk down the sidewalk. I was just enjoying their company. Then, suddenly a particularly sweet moment unfolded in front of me.

    Madcow reached over and held Nicole’s hand as we all walked back to the cars. They swung their arms back and forth like little kids. Maybe Madcow was trying to build her wall of innocence back up. It was comforting for me to see Madcow and Nicole walking hand-in-hand swinging their arms.

    We were invited back to the house for a reception. It was made clear that it’s not a ‘party’. Another example of how the sheep truly don’t understand the sheepdogs.

    We drove straight to the venue but realized that we were the first ones there. We wanted to give the host time to change or have some alone time with their family. So, Mark, Madcow, Russ, and I drove to the closest restaurant for drinks and appetizers. We had a few drinks and talked about work for an hour. I miss that life.

    We closed the bill then made our way back to the house. The neighborhood reminded me of a street Norman Rockwell would have lived on. Row after row of brick homes. Mature oak trees. American flags decorating just about every other house. Kids riding bicycles. Neighbors talking to the mailman.

    We knocked a few times. No one answered. It felt weird just walking in. We entered to find a room full of women. Everyone welcomed us with smiles and greetings. The host told us that the men were all out back. She quickly shuffled us to the back of the house. I didn’t realize it was a segregated reception. I would have liked to mingle and get to know the women in Ryan’s life too. I planned on coming back inside to mingle with the women after I spoke to the men outside. But there wasn’t time to make our rounds and pay respects. We would be tasked for a follow-on mission soon.

    After settling in and chatting with the men outside, Nicole and her husband asked us for a favor. Mr. Blake didn’t want to leave his house. He wanted to be alone. He just buried his best friend. I’d want to be alone too. Nicole asked if we could go over to Ron’s house and spend some time with him. We didn’t hesitate fulfill her request.

    It was our goal for the weekend to connect with Mr. Blake on a 1-on-1 level and share stories about his son that shouldn’t be forgotten. I’ve lost quite a lot of friends throughout the years. Too many good men. I’ve realized that we sheepdogs say goodbye in our own way. Today, we’d say goodbye in our own way once again, but this time we included Mr. Blake in the ritual. The church service was for the family. The funeral procession was for respect. The stories were for Ryan’s dad.

    We shuffled into Mr. Blake’s dark living room and each of us took a chair. It was a large living room with plush, comfortable furniture. I sank deep in the couch when I sat down. Before we took a sip of our first drink, Ryan’s brother in law had a brilliant idea. He drove over to Ryan’s house and returned with a bottle of scotch from Ryan’s office. We sat in the living room, drank Ryan’s scotch, and let Mr. Blake know how deeply Ryan would be missed by his second family.

    Mr. Blake raised his glass and delivered the first toast. The scotch went down smooth.

    We shared stories for hours and hours. We laughed and cried then laughed some more. We indulged in alcohol. We shared stories that were not meant to be heard outside of our circle. We let Mr. Blake know how special his son was to the community. We told stories that weren't meant to be told. We share Ryan's life with his dad. We filled in the classified gaps and let Mr Blake know what kind of man he raised. We indulged in Ryan’s life.

    We eventually moved the group outside for some fresh air. I don’t want to say that I had a good time…but it felt nice to laugh and tell inappropriate stories - stories valor and shenanigans. All of us were strong for Mr. Blake. He broke down frequently but this was a proper send off. This is how we say goodbye.

    We said goodbye to Ryan all night. We indulged in his life. We were his brothers and he’ll never be forgotten. Ryan will always be with us. A part of him will always remain in my thoughts. The pain never goes away, we just learn to live with it and keep moving forward and keep fighting.

    For a short while, I walked among giants in a far away land. I will never forget the men who earned my respect and ultimately my admiration. Stay safe. Keep your powder dry. And hold your loved ones tight.


    Rest in peace brother. Til Valhalla.


    De Oppresso Liber

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  9. stromsavard

    stromsavard Serge Supporter

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    wow....Speechless....thank you....
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  10. bbanker

    bbanker Been here awhile Supporter

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    Thanks for sharing. Very powerful stuff.
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  11. steved57

    steved57 Been here awhile Supporter

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    Incredible and very powerful
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  12. wittyusername

    wittyusername This is the spot for my custom title

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    Day 3 at the Halloween edition of the Texas Tornado Bootcamp. Motorcycles all morning then a fun day on the range.

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  13. wittyusername

    wittyusername This is the spot for my custom title

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    Day 3 at the Halloween edition of the Texas Tornado Bootcamp was a blast.

    I bruised my ribs during the endurance race that afternoon. I hope they’re not broken. Brett’s ridiculous squirrel costume made my ribs hurt 10x worse because I couldn’t stop laughing. Oh it hurts to laugh but I just couldn’t stop.

    The track was open all night and we could ride as long as we wanted. Some students rode while others sat by the fire with motorcycle legends and national champions. It was picturesque.

    I’m wondering what kind of fun day 4 is going to bring.

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  14. SDR82

    SDR82 Adventurer

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    Thanks for sharing. speechless.
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  15. wilfred

    wilfred juvenile delinquent Supporter

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    Thanks for sharing your ride report. Ride safely. In honor of Veterans I shared Russ Vaughn's poem.
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  16. wobbly one

    wobbly one Adventurer

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    Well done soldier. Press on.
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  17. Madscientist

    Madscientist Been here awhile

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    Thank you for sharing such intimate moments. Peace to you as you continue your journey.
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  18. wittyusername

    wittyusername This is the spot for my custom title

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    On the last day of the Texas Tornado Bootcamp, I packed up early and skipped the .50 cal range. I’ve done enough shooting in my life.

    I rode 800 miles to Brett’s house in a day and a half so I could store my bike and catch a flight back to S. Florida. I met Brett’s dogs for the first time...and they immediately pissed on my front tire in the driveway. Hahah!

    I need to take a necessary detour for about 2 weeks. Oh it’s an exciting time that I can’t talk about just yet. But it’s coming.

    I’m at the airport in Atlanta finishing up my ride report of Colin’s camp. What an amazing experience.

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  19. wittyusername

    wittyusername This is the spot for my custom title

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    I posted a few pictures and typed a few words about Colin Edward’s Texas Tornado Bootcamp while I was there. My few words and teaser pictures didn’t give the Camp the justice it deserves. What an incredible experience. I wanted to share real time updates. Now that I’m in a place where I have some quiet moments, I’d like to tell you all about camp and my experience. I’ve been itching to write about everything and share my thoughts and experiences with you. Please excuse any repeat pictures but I’ll paint a picture and give you some context.


    If you’re keeping up with my ADV thread, then you know that I’m somewhat in-over-my-head with this epic motorcycle journey. I won’t paint an unrealistic picture of my riding experience just to make my story more interesting or to stroke my own ego.


    I am who I am, and I left my ego somewhere back east…think Middle East. There’s always someone stronger. There’s always a better shooter. And there’s always a faster rider. I’m comfortable in my own skin and I don’t have anything to prove to anyone. Completing the Texas Tornado Bootcamp was a great way to kick off this motorcycle journey. I learned valuable skills, made some incredible contacts, and gained more confidence on the bike.


    This trip and the magnitude of my journey is a calculated risk that I’m mostly comfortable with. I’ve always enjoyed testing my limits to see where my comfort zone is – then pushing a bit further and testing how far I can step outside of my comfort zone...before I’m too close to that Edge.


    I’m not an adrenaline junkie. I’m a, “I wonder if I can do that junkie”. For example, one time while I was living in Hawaii, I decided to run to the summit of Mauna Kea. I started at the visitor center (9,000 feet) and ran up the back trail to the summit (14,000 feet). Once at the summit, I snapped a picture then ran back down to my car. 10,000 feet elevation change over 18 miles on nasty lava rock to the summit. I did it…and I never want to do it again. It was just a fun thing to do to see if I could do it.


    Let’s talk about that dangerous “Edge” I mentioned earlier. Imagine that Edge as if it’s a literal edge of a cliff. If you go over the cliff then you’ll likely end up with a career ending injury.


    On day 1 of Camp, my comfort zone was a solid 100 meters away from the Edge of the symbolic cliff. Then again, I had very little idea what I was doing on a flat dirt track. No one knew how nervous I was because I pretended to be confident. I rode within my limits then pushed harder every day. I soaked in every word of advice like a dry sponge. I memorized the lines that the more experienced riders took and tried to follow suit. I tied to mimic their riding body position and thought I was doing so perfectly…I wasn’t…but I felt like I was. Every day I moved my comfort zone a bit closer to the Edge of the cliff. I rode harder and smarter every day. Every day I was a little bit faster. Every day I was an inch or two closer to my symbolic Edge.


    By the last day of Camp my comfort zone was a hell of a lot closer to that Edge than it was on Day 1. I was beginning to feel comfortable when my rear tire would break free and slide around a turn. I also found myself rolling on the throttle while sliding around at the apex of a turn - while I was firmly outside of my comfort zone. What a feeling! However, compared to the instructors or some of the pro class riders who were at Camp…I was miles away from that Edge. I might as well of been back at the garage a few towns over from the Edge.


    The last time I rode with Brett was back in 2012. His riding ability has grown by leaps and bounds since he’s been taking vets to Camp with RaceForTheWounded. Despite all his efforts, he’ll likely never be as fast as the instructors. There’s a very good reason why. His body position is identical to theirs. He rides the same lines they do. He’s on the brake and throttle within a fraction of a second of them.


    So, what’s the difference? Why are the instructors or pro-riders 3-7 seconds faster per lap than Brett? Simple…Brett always holds back just enough to walk away and give the bike to the next rider. Even though Brett is riding by himself and not handing the bike to anyone, he rides as if he’s on a team. The concept of teamwork and the ‘greater good’ is etched into his core personality. He can’t break free of it. It’s who he is. He doesn’t know how to be selfish enough to take that 1 extra step closer to the “Edge”. He’s close, but not close enough for greatness.


    The instructors are all fighting over that last inch on the Edge of the cliff. It’s a game of chicken to see who’s brave enough or selfish enough to get a little closer. A selfish pro-rider isn’t a negative character trait on the track. I think it’s a necessary character trait if you want to compete at that level. Afterall, you’re potentially sacrificing your future health just to be #1.


    It’s within that last inch on the Edge of the cliff where great riders shine. They’re comfortable on the Edge of the cliff. They’re all fighting over that list tiny piece of land on the Edge of disaster. It’s impressive to watch them all smile and laugh at each other while they push ever so closer to the Edge. It’s wide open controlled chaos. And it’s beautiful to watch.


    I arrived at Camp the night before the rest of the students were scheduled to arrive. Brett arrived a few hours before me. We were able to sit and have a few beers in the camp common room before it was too busy or loud to have a normal conversation. Brett has been to dozens of past camps and was used to the sights around us. For me, it was sensory overload. The common area was like a museum of motorcycle greatness.


    We sat and got caught up on each other’s lives. Damn it was good to see him. One of the topics of conversation was how Brett was able to set all of this up. How did he become friends with one of the greatest MotoGP racers of all time? I was sitting in a museum of motorcycle legends and there were RaceForTheWounded logos everywhere. I didn’t realize how much support Colin Edwards gave to Brett’s non-profit.


    Brett shared a story with me about Colin Edwards that needs to be heard. Colin has too much class to spotlight himself…so I’ll do it for him.


    When Colin was racing MotoGP, he had it written into his contract that he could wear any hat that he wanted. Big deal, right? His headgear wasn’t for sale. He lost millions of dollars in ad revenue because he wanted to show support for the U.S. Military...by wearing military hats. He knew exactly what he was giving up. Colin said that vets would always give him hats. Wearing a hat that a vet gave him was the one thing he could do to show support for the troops. If you search for pictures of Colin when he was racing MotoGP, you’ll see him wearing an Air Force hat, a Marines hat, an Army hat, etc. It’s a subtle gesture with tremendous weight.


    I don’t know if that story is common knowledge in the motorcycle community, but ought to be.


    He even had camouflage leathers made so he could honor the troops at his final retirement race.


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    Day 1: Before the students arrived, Brett and I went out to breakfast with several of the instructors and Dezrae ‘Dez’ Caldwell. Dez is a is a 16-year-old girl that Colin and his team have taken under their wing. She lives nearby and works at the camp. She helps with the paperwork, cleans up, prepares meals, keeps the gear organized, and rides as much as she wants. The TTBC team is coaching / mentoring the next generation of superstars. The TTBC team recognized that Dez has the talent to be great. She just needs the time and mentoring to refine her skills. One of the character traits of great leaders is the answer to the question, “What have you done for anyone else?” For the TTBC team – they’re shaping the next generation of riders. It’s admirable. She has free access to some of the most accomplished riders in the industry. Her support network is incredible.


    At breakfast I sat across from Joe Prussiano (3 time Pikes Peak Champion and Camp manager). The nicest and most humble guy ever. I was distracted by his hands throughout breakfast. His hands and wrists just looked like they were beat up – like he spent all his free time punching drywall. His hands and wrists looked like they were 50 years older than his actual age. He walked a little slower than us…clear signs of a lifetime of hard motorcycle riding. Why do we continue to ride despite injuries? Because there’s nothing else like it. Because we love it. It’s just fun to do.

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    The last student arrived around 4pm. We were told to be dressed to ride by 4:30. We picked out our bikes and returned to the common area for a short class on camp etiquette, rules, and guidelines. Joe P. gave the class. I chose bike #88. Why…I used to own a security company called Signal 88 Security. I figured it’d give me a bit of good luck out on the track. It didn’t. It was cold out…very cold….and the electric start drained the battery. I was working on kick starting it while every other student was already on the track. Colin Edwards saw I was having trouble and jump started my bike for me. Ugh…I thought don’t be “that guy,” Scott. I was already nervous enough.


    After Joe P’s class on camp rules, he gave another class outside. He went over body position, grip, and some basic mechanics of flat track riding. I understood everything he was saying. It made logical sense to me. The concepts aren’t too difficult to grasp. In my head I understood everything…implementation of these concepts was the challenging part.


    We free rode on the track for the next 30 minutes. I’m assuming they started off with a free ride session so they could get a feel for the class. I identified myself as one of the worst riders in the class. Hah! Half of the class were repeat students and already knew what they were doing. I really felt out of place but was having a blast! I just got off my big whale of a BMW and this little 150cc (or whatever it was) bike felt like a toy.


    After we free rode, we went straight into the first SuperPole. If you’re unfamiliar with SuperPole…it’s when 1 rider rides the track while every other student watches you ride. It’s timed and your time is written on the board. No pressure right? Man…I was terrible. I blew every corner too wide. I was trying to remember 1,000 things Joe P. just told me all at once. I was pouring a gallon of knowledge into a shot glass of memory. Some things fell off...


    Joe P. came up to me afterwards and told me not to get upset about my run. I think he was worried I’d be shaken or discouraged. I told him, “Nah man, I’m just happy to be here!!” And I truly was.


    Later that night I finished typing my story about Ryan. It felt like the perfect time to post it since I’d be unable to type anything substantial for a while.


    It was an early night. I needed to get some rest.


    Day 2 was full of drills, free riding, firearms, another SuperPole, and a fun night by the fire. I was a much better rider on day 2….but I was still on the bottom 1/3rd of the SuperPole board. No big deal. I was just happy to be there.


    For the first time this class, all three tracks were finally open. They had to dry out a bit before we could ride on them. The instructors ran us through some more drills. We did a brake drill, exit corner drill, and a 90 degree turn drill. They have an interesting approach when teaching corners. They teach it in reverse. Figure out where you want to end up then plan backwards to end up where you want to go.


    After lunch, the class rode down to the shooting range for about 90 minutes. They shot shotguns and Glocks. For most of the students, it was their first time shooting a gun…which is exactly why I chose to ride instead of participate at the range.


    Now, this isn’t a ding against the Camp or the range safety officer. I’ve spent quite a bit of time on the range with high level shooters. I feel comfortable shooting targets at very close proximity to my friends or shooting-and-moving as a team because they understand and always implement the 4 basic rules of firearms safety.

    1. Treat every weapon as if it’s loaded.

    2. Do not point your weapon at anything you don’t intend to kill.

    3. Be aware of your target and what’s behind it.

    4. Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to fire.



    If you follow those simple rules, you’ll always be safe around firearms.


    Every single time I go to a civilian range, I see shooters violate one of these 4 basic safety rules. Every single time. It makes me uneasy and gives me a lot of anxiety to shoot with inexperienced shooters when I’m not the instructor. I used to be a firearm instructor with Sean Ryan from Vigilance Elite. We had pretty high standards in firearms training.


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    I don’t know if any of the shooters violated these rules at Camp, but I didn’t want to be around to see it. I came to Camp to ride motorcycles. I had the entire track to myself while they were at the range. It was great. I’ve done enough shooting in my life. I saw pictures and it looked like everyone enjoyed themselves on the range. I was happy to see that.



    People come from all over the world to ride in this 4 day camp. The night before Day 1, Brett told me about a guy who flew all the way from Australia a few classes earlier…and then broke his leg after 5 minutes on the bike. Yeah…thanks for that confidence booster Brett. That wasn’t on my mind for the entire camp. Since there’s so many different personalities and backgrounds who come together at Camp, Colin found a game that everyone could play at the same time. It’s a great ice breaker and great way to get everyone together. It's Crud and it’s a blast.


    After a long night by the fire, everyone played a few games of Crud. It was cool to see everyone getting along. I haven’t had that much fun in a large group in years.


    Brett won the first game. But I scored the first point of the game against Colin…on the very first shot of the game. Boom.


    Day 3: The third day of Camp was by far my favorite day. I was finally starting to put it all together. After another free-ride to warm up, the instructors put us through several more drills until lunch. I felt more confident and began to push myself further outside my comfort zone. If you want to know what these magic drills are…then you’ll just need to sign up to the next Camp.

    Next, we picked teams and rode in a 60-minute endurance race. Brett, Mike G., and I were on a team. I started the endurance race and my bike was the last to crank over…shit. In my rush to catch up, I ate shit after 2 turns…shit. Brett turned to Mike and said, “Well…not a great star so far”. Hah! I thoroughly enjoyed the endurance race because I was on the track with the instructors, John Hopkins (retired pro-MotoGP racer), Dez, and Colin’s son (Hayes). It was a different and unique perspective to ride next to them as they entered the corners completely sideways and inched ever closer to the Edge. When they lapped me, I decided for a split second that I’d try to keep up with them. They passed me in a group – all at once. The second I made that decision try and stay with them, I found myself on my ass. I immediately crashed and bruised my ribs something fierce.


    We didn’t win the endurance race. But it was a blast!


    Day 3 was also the costume day! After lunch everyone threw on their costumes. This was the Halloween edition of the TTBC. If a student didn’t bring a costume, then Colin had a plethora of costumes to choose from – each more ridiculous than the next. Riding in your costume was encouraged. Everyone raced in the SuperPole with their costumes on. There’s nothing more hilarious than watching a 6’ tall squirrel’s tail standing erect and flap in the wind as it shreds the track. Damn that squirrel was fast. Colin’s son, Hayes, rode behind all the students while he wore a GoPro on his helmet. He filmed every single rider. The video played on the big TV during dinner.

    I think Hayes is 11 or 12 years old. Brett told me that he's never had a single motorcycle lesson in his life. Hayes is, by far, the fastest rider on the track. A few weeks earlier he beat an active professional flat-track racer at Dirt Wars (a flat-track race). Hayes races national champions, pro riders, and legends every single day in his back yard. To him, they're just the guys who hang out with his dad at his camp. The kid is incredible to watch on the track.


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    After the SuperPole, we rode down to the range for the shooting competition. I decided to participate because I heard nothing but great things about the range-practice day. I don’t know if anyone at camp (besides Brett) knew my background. If they did, it’d only add more pressure to win. I didn’t care about winning. I was just happy to be there and watch everyone else have fun shooting. When it was my turn to shoot, I decided to run through the 5 shooting lanes as fast as I could. For the first time at camp, I was able to be aggressive and comfortable at the same time. It was a nice feeling. I know I would have had a much better score if I moved a ½ step slower. But, the ironic thing is, I felt more comfortable when operating / handling the most deadly thing at camp. There were 2 shotgun lanes, 2 pistol lanes, then a long gun lane. I went too fast and lost track of my front sight when I was speed-shooting the 5 steel targets with the .45 Glock. I missed one of the .9mm Glock steel targets too. Oh…the student who won the entire shooting competition injured his knee earlier that day and walked…or rather, moseyed from station to station. There are important shooting lessons to be learned in that paragraph.

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    That night was another fun night.


    I posted a short video on my Instagram of what a picturesque scene it was. The track was open all night and we could ride as long as we wanted. Some students rode while others sat by the fire with motorcycle legends and national champions.


    Brett gave me a pretty cool gift that night. He had a motorcycle jersey made up with my last name on the back and 2nd Rangers <2> on the shoulders. Rangers in WWII wore a <2> on the back of their helmets…see Saving Private Ryan. Every single one of my motorcycle helmets has a <2> sticker on the back of it.

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    Brett told me a few success stories of the vets he’s helped through RaceForTheWounded. One of my favorite memories of the weekend was when I was talking to Joe P. and a few other students about the challenges vets might face when trying to integrate back into the civilian world. That very theme was one of the many reasons why I decided to take this trip and share my life with you. Sometimes we just need to feel like we’re part of a team again. Sometimes vets disconnect and never reconnect with anyone. I’m proud to share some of RaceForTheWounded’s success stories with you below.


    The selection process for Brett to choose who he helps / sponsors is a difficult one. Despite all their success and pro-rider endorsements, RFTW barley takes in any donations. This forces Brett to be extremely frugal and limited with his support. He often covers expenses out of his own pocket. The vet pays absolutely nothing. There’s an application online where candidates submit an essay to introduce themselves and explain why they’d like to be considered for a slot on the RFTW team. Brett reads every single essay. I wouldn’t want that responsibility. Sometimes, however, choosing a vet to help isn’t so difficult.


    Brett was contacted by friend of Mike in 2013 or 2014. I don’t know the friend’s name, so I’ll just call him Sam. Sam explained to Brett that he was worried about his friend. Before Mike lost both of his legs, he was outgoing and loved off-road motorsports. After his injury he began to slowly withdrawal from everything and everyone. Sam explained that Mike stopped socializing, drank too much and too often, and deactivated all his social media accounts. These are all major red flags that often go unnoticed.


    Brett called Mike every day for weeks to earn his trust. They’d talk for hours about motorsports, desert racing, and absent friends. Brett earned Mike’s trust and he agreed to race in the Mint 400 in Vegas. Mike now had a goal. Mike was now part of a team again. Mike now had a mission. He stopped drinking and joined the gym to prepare for the grueling Mint 400.


    At this time in RFTW’s history, Brett was partnered up with a trophy truck owner. Mike rode in the navigator seat of the truck. The driver, who had been racing in the desert for years, said that Mike was an absolute natural navigator. They took 2nd place and this turned Mike’s life around. Mike’s new goal was to open his own shop. All it took was for someone to recognize the warning signs and bring him on as a member of the team.

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    Let me tell you about Craig. Craig earned his pro-card for flat track motorcycle racing before 9/11. After 9/11, he raised his hand and took the oath to defend our country. He lost his leg fulfilling his oath. How’s he going to ever ride a motorcycle again? The govt gives us prosthetics when we lose limbs, but they can’t supply specialized appendages for everyone I suppose. If you can’t afford the bill then don’t order the food. Brett put him in contact with an expert prosthetic leg builder who made him a specialized motocross riding leg. It was free of charge.


    Brett took Craig to Colin’s camp two times while they prepared for the Mexican 1000. The Mexicn 1000 is a 5 day rally race in Baja. They raced over 1,200 miles in the desert. They took 1st place in the SuperVintage Class and 7th place overall. They rode a badass ’71 Honda SL350 nicknamed “Hogzilla”.


    Today, Craig works for the VA and helps counsel dudes when they return from conflict zones.


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    I wasn’t the only vet Brett brought to Camp that weekend. Brett also invited a Marine named Mike G. Mike had a great time too. We quickly became friends. One thing that’s important to understand about inured vets is that our injuries do not define us. There’s more to us than what you see...or don’t see. Mike’s injuries are his business. I keep my disability rating to myself because I’ve found that civilians treat me differently when they find out that I’m 100% service-connected disabled veteran. They treat me like they’re wearing kids gloves and it’s frustrating as hell. In the words of Daniel Grossman, “It’s like trying to explain sex to a virgin.” You’ll never understand unless you’ve worn my boots – so don’t patronize us.


    Day 4 was the final day. I really wanted to post a fast SuperPole time. It wasn’t about ego. I just wanted to see how far I could push closer to that Edge I mentioned earlier. I had too much on my mind and something important fell off my plate. I was in the wrong gear for ½ of the track…yeah…that happened. I was so focused on entering a turn, the apex, rolling on the throttle, not looking at my front tire, and then where I was going to exit the turn that I forgot to downshift. Stupid mistake. But I was just happy to be there.


    The instructors let me do the SuperPole again. They didn’t need to let me ride again though. I really was just happy to be there. I think the instructors just wanted to see how much I improved. I ran it again and posted my fastest time so far. I wasn’t lighting fast, but Brett said it was the smoothest I’ve rode all week. Pretty cool stuff.


    After the last SuperPole, I turned my bike in and started packing up. I had a long way to ride that night on my GS whale after Camp was dismissed. There was a short awards ceremony in the common area. Colin issued out the Camp champ award, endurance awards, and the shooting awards. Colin always gives away awards at Camp but I don’t think many students give him something at the awards ceremony. I had a RaceForTheWounded moto jersey made up and presented it to him in front of the students. It was a small gesture of thanks for all the support he’s given to the men and women who raised their right hand and swore an oath to defend our country.


    I can’t thank Brett, Colin Edwards, and the rest of his team enough for an amazing time. It felt good to be part of a team again.


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    Race For The Wounded

    https://raceforthewounded.com/

    IG: @raceforthewounded



    Colin Edwards Texas Tornado Bootcamp

    https://www.texastornadobootcamp.com/

    IG: @colin_edwards_ttbc



    Shea “Fooch” Fouchek – Instructor

    IG: @fooch39



    Cory West – Instructor

    http://www.froggymoto.com/

    IG: @corywest13

    IG: @froggy_moto



    Jake Johnson – Instructor

    IG: @jake5johnson




    Jeff Bonifas – Instructor

    IG: @bonifas234




    Joe Prussiano – Camp manager and lead instructor

    Mike Myers – Senior instructor



    Hayes Edwards - Colin's son and future champion
    IG: @hayes._.edwards



    Dezrae "Dez" Caldwell - Camp assistant and future champion
    IG: @dizzydezracing814

    Shawn Ryan
    https://www.vigilanceelite.com/
    IG: @vigilanceelite
  20. wittyusername

    wittyusername This is the spot for my custom title

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    ADV only allows 10 pictures per post. Here are a few more pictures for the post above.

    Thanks for reading.

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