Monday, March 17, 2008

Of Heroes, Warriors, and Road Angels.

Nieves, his dad, and his home town VFW

Today was to be one of the best days for me yet, and one of the toughest for the rest. Thursday we woke up at the Holiday Inn in San Antonio after spending a great evening meeting most of the wounded warriors, and getting a chance to hear some of their stories. We went to Rudy’s for BBQ, beer, and stories, a great night, but today was much better. We were up early and loaded for the truck ride onto base and the Brook Army Medical center. There we were privileged to meet the rest of the heroes, and had the chance to help them get into their bikes and really see for the 1st time their resolve. I had the distinct opportunity to meet Matt Lammers and Adrian Garcia, 2 amputees who were going to ride hand cycles for their 1st time. I helped Matt get into his and figure out how to attach is left mechanical arm to the “peddle” and physically attach him to his chair. From there we rode to the Center for the Intrepid, for an official send off for the days ride. There we saw several dozen other wounded vets, and many well wishers as we took official photos and began the soldiers 25 mile ride. From there we rode to the Alamo where kids, regular folks, the police, and the press have these guys a heroes welcome.

Adrian getting ready

Welcome at the Alamo
Send off at the center for the intrepid
Ryan makes the climb
Kevin pushing the hill flying old glory proudly

I followed behind Matt and Adrian the whole 25 miles taking with them about how they got there, what this day meant to them, and generally riding in Aw of them both. It was a slow roll of about 7.5MPH average, but by far the best riding so far, for me. These 2 and all the others truly amazed me with their spirit, persistence, and presence. Their overall attitude could be seen, felt and seen. I cannot describe my emotions and feelings, I can only hope you will some day get the opportunity to meet these heroes or others like them. Trust me it is more than time well spent. Knowing it was Matt 1st real day out of the hospital for a day of recreation on his own power was awesome to see, you could truly see relief and enjoyment in his face as he moved that bike down the rode. He told me this was the 1st time he felt like he used to when he would get in a pick-up game of some sort, that feeling when your sports face kicks in and the bad seems to melt away for a time. He said how cool it was to see the outdoors, hear the birds, and smell the flowers while out on his own. I believed him when he said he fell in love with cycling, something he never would have considered on his own, nor known if not for the wounded warrior project. At the end of the ride we was hot, sweaty, tired, but looking forward to the next days 25 miles.

Matt and Ken relax with some suport after the ride.

Dave, Steve, Cliff, Lari, Dad and another wounded warrior Nevis Rodriguez broke off after about 12 miles and headed out for Beeville, what was to be a 106 mile day for them. I caught them at about the 50 mile mark, and along with Mr. Aycock (Lari’s dad) followed them to about the 70 mile mark. There Dave suggested I become and advance party and took off for parts unknown, well sort of. I arrived in Beeville at about 5:30pm where I called Pricilla Stuart, out won Road Angel. Lari had contacted her a few week prior about our camping at her RV park, which she promptly said no to, as she had no restroom facilities, but she asked why. Which is where Lari kicked in her salesmanship, and the angel in Pricilla came out. Lari explained the purpose of our trip, and immediately Pricilla offered her dove lease area, explaining it was way back in her pasture and not much but a field with electricity and a bathroom. Not sure what to expect I called her when I pulled up to the RV park, she came right over in a mini van and instructed I follow her, that her son Gordon would be “the gate guy.” Not sure what she meant I followed her about ½ mile to the 1st gate, in we went, crossing about another ½ mile of goat pasture until we hit gate 2, here we went into another pasture filled with Brahma cows and new calf’s, we again crossed near ½ mile of pasture where we arrived at the 3rd gate, this one reviled a small lake, surrounded with ¼ horses, with a small hut in an enclosed fence around it. She proclaimed this is where we would call home for the night. When we pulled up I met Ken her hired hand who was working on the final touch to the clean up they had pulled off all week. Apparently the dove hunters left the place a wreck, and they had to work all week to clean it up, get it mowed, and get fire wood in place for us…. They offered to help me get the camp ready for our weary riders who were still about 2 ½ hours out. I found everyone’s tents in the back of the truck and off they went helping me set up 4 tents and 1 hammock. None of which any of them had seen the like of before. We found level ground removed limbs and twigs and got them all up and ready. Then she showed me her real welcome, brisket, potato salad, macaroni salad, beans, bread, fruit drinks, etc etc, etc. And she would hear non of taking anything for any of it. I got to hear all bout her late mother and father and how they came to own the ranch and keep it going, a truly proud family with a great heritage.

Pircilla, and Ken serve Steve some great food

The dove hut

Dave "Truman" listens to the tail of the nut and the bass

At ~ 9:30 12 hours from the start of their days the riders called and said they were at the exit, at this point Pricilla brought her big farm truck with a 15ft enclosed trailer out and off we went to meet the riders. We meet them at 181 and 351 along with Nevis’s family. She loaded the bikes in the trailer, and the riders in her van and off we went back to the camp. Well after Dave asked if we could ride there, I just smiled and told him to get in the truck, no way a 700X28 time would make it. Once at the camp the food came out, the beer I had picked up along the way was un-capped and refreshments ensued. Pricilla was truly a road angel, and we couldn’t have asked for more, even leaving a cooler with juice and fruit for morning. She sat and visited by the fire for an hour or so then left us to finish the beer, clean up ourselves, and get some sleep. Lari and her dad headed to their hotel and we crashed after a short time. BTW Pricilla said she would charge us a dollar a night but waive it if we came back next year, and we hope to take her up on that. There is no way we could repay her kindness.

Today was truly about helping others, we had a small chance to help and see the help given to some great heroes, and we were helped by one road angel. Although I didn’t get the miles of the others I feel truly blessed to have had today.


David "Truman" Hill said...

Well done, Tate. Good account of that day.

For the record, Rod's name is "Nieves". It's a new one on me.

Aelborn said...

Great story, I bet it was an exciting time. BTW, it is angel not angle.