Until last year, I am ashamed to say that I gave little thought to Veterans. I have always been a loyal supportive American, but in retrospect, my patriotism was limited and shallow. I loved hearing the National Anthem, appreciated seeing American flags waving in front of homes and lining the streets of small towns on national holidays, and always felt a pang that I personally never served. My father was in the Army, but perhaps because he served during a peaceful time, his experience remained mostly his experience – something that he did and enjoyed, but not something that defined who he is today. I grew up protected from a lot, and I didn’t really ‘get it’.
Last year, everything changed for me for two reasons. The main experience that has permanently impacted me was working with my oldest son and his bike team from school to plan their ride across the country last summer to raise money for Ride 2 Recovery. Ride 2 Recovery is an organization that helps wounded veterans heal by connecting them with cycling. I worked closely with Jacob’s team, meeting with them monthly from September 2014 through May 2015, and then spent the last week of their ride with them at the end of July. I listened as these teenagers discussed what charity they wanted to support, and was proud when they decided to pick one which supported Veterans. They planned their route, purchased bikes & gear, fundraised and fundraised some more. Eddie designed their bike kits (outfits), brochures and the decals covering the support van. Other parents connected the team with veterans across the country, found camp sites or lodging, and logged many hours facilitating the ride. It was a ton of work and took up a lot of time and brain power, but the results were worth it. To date, their team raised $124,972.00 for Ride 2 Recovery.
When I met up with the team, they were in Niagara Falls. The next seven days, I witnessed strangers coming out to help the riders, police officers and fire fighters welcoming the kids into their small towns, and many veterans coming out to help support the riders. The experiences were remarkable and life-changing for me. It gave me the gift of perspective, and for that, I will forever be grateful. While I’m embarrassed that it took this experience to really understand and appreciate those who served, I am so grateful that I now have a deeper understanding about what our servicemen and women sacrifice for the protection of our country.
The picture above is the shirt that John Wordin, the head of Ride 2 Recovery, gave to me as a thank you. It’s signed by those who work every day with Ride 2 Recovery to help wounded Veterans find a way to heal. It’s hanging in my office & I treasure it and all it represents.
The second event that changed everything for me was when my middle son committed to attend the Air Force Academy. He knew he wanted to play lacrosse in college, and at the outset, the decision was all about lacrosse. And then, he visited Colorado Springs, and the conversations changed and took on a much larger, deeper meaning. I am extremely proud of his decision. Proud, and terrified. I’m thankful that I have time to process his choice, because I need it. The fear of ‘what if’ hits home a lot more frequently now for me. It’s something I will figure out how to manage, no doubt, but in the meantime, I find myself grateful once again with this gift of perspective.
With deep respect for all who have served and all who will one day follow in those footsteps.