There are certain sounds, certain smells that are forever linked to experiences in the past. Years had passed since I remember holding one of these . It felt natural & foreign all at once…
“Have you shot one of these before?” A question that made me smile as I was really excited to hold this weapon – an M4 (M16 when I was last on a range). It felt empowering, it felt natural, and it still didn’t take away any feelings of nervousness I had.
“It’s been about 10 years or so.”
“Alright then, let’s get you familiar with it again!”
Scott was the instructor on the firing lane I had walked up to. I was part of the last group of folks to shoot. We’d fire a specific number of rounds with the M4 (rifle), and then we’d fire the M9 (pistol). I was excited and nervous and just wanted to get that feeling of “breathing & squeezing” again, a frame of mind I hadn’t been in for years.
“Hey Ferg, let’s see what you can do, I’m watching you!” When you have a group of competitive GRT’s, you know there will be an ample amount of smack talking, and Rocco was sure to not disappoint. So I took my hat off, adjusted my safety glasses, and got myself ready for business. The smile of my face only told one side of the story – but what about the other side?
How was it that I was standing once again on a military range?
This past summer, Cadre Ed Hall reached out to me and said this, ” Fergus, I found the family we are going to help – It’s now my time to pay it forward!”
I already knew what that meant. The previous year we had raised some money for his family, when he didn’t know who I was, or the folks that would eventually help him and his family. The impact of that gesture changed his life, and it was now time to change the life of another, another one in 1st SFG on Joint Base Lewis McChord, WA. I was excited to have that focus again, I knew the amount of work that it would take to accomplish the task – I just didn’t know how expansive this effort was going to be. To say I’d be surprised would be an understatement.
“Alright Ed, let’s get to work.”
The planning began this past summer, sometime around July. We wanted to create an event beyond the GORUCK Light that was run last year on his behalf. The circumstances that surrounded “how” Ed had come across the family we’d eventually help, was in many ways – meant to be. During a hospital visit with Tanya (for her care) Ed found out through the medical staff about a soldier whose son was fighting a very rare blood disorder. It just so happened, that soldier was part of 1st SFG. In that instant Ed knew that this was the family he was going to pay forward and help.
Mike’s son – Arden has Multifocal Lymphangioendothelialmatosis with Thrombocytopenia. He is one of 48 people internationally to be diagnosed with MLT. There is no known treatment besides transfusing packed red blood cells. When Ed was given the status of Arden, he already had about 800 visits to the hospital. It’s enough to make any parent heartbroken, knowing the burden their child was enduring, and their own family too.
So the Team got to work….we had plenty of hurdles to cross, and about 4 months to get it done.
The ultimate goal was to create an event that would surpass our efforts from last year. To do so meant coming up with an event, or events, that would bring together folks from across the country. In essence we settled on this idea -we’d reverse a GORUCK Event known as the HCL (3-Events in one, GORUCK HEAVY, CHALLENGE, LIGHT) and add a new event – the MEATHEAD (this is simply executing the three basic power-lifts – BENCH, SQUAT, DEADLIFT). That would give it a new twist. But then we needed to make it harder, so we reversed the order. It would now be an MLCH, Meathead followed by the rest.
Have I lost you yet?
We created a bunch of different raffles to raise the funds needed to not only ensure we met our fundraising goal for the family (which we crushed) but we also wanted to make sure we could donate the remaining funds (post expenses) to the Green Beret Foundation. (as of 12/3/14, the donation to the GBF is in final reconciliation stages with my accounting partner in NY).
So how did we wind up having 40 folks brought onto a military base in the Pacific Northwest to experience what a Special Forces soldier / unit may go through on a training day? That credit is going to MSG Ed Hall. With everything that was in play, Ed talked to his staff and his chain of command to tell them about what he was trying to accomplish, and what a bunch of civilians from across the country were doing to support one of their own. This is where the story takes a very awesome turn.
Based on what Ed had presented, he was told that 1SFG would help however they could, that he would get the support to ensure the success of this personal mission. This is where the “community outreach” idea was created. Since there were civilians (and military, police, fire, etc) that were willing to WANT to help this family, why not complete the “bridge” that was already being built. 1SFG decided at that point to host a Community Outreach Day in which a specific amount of folks would be given the opportunity to experience certain aspects of the 1stSFG life. It just so happened that this day centered around folks being able to shoot a few weapons systems, and learn about 1SFG. All Ed had to do was get approval from a few different folks, specifically a 3-STAR General. (just because Ed didn’t have that signature & authorization until the week of the event was a minor detail!)
“I wonder if I’d be able to get 40 folks to show up for this?”
Once the word got out that 1st SFG would be hosting a Community Outreach Day, it didn’t take long for the folks to sign up. It was on a first-come , first serve basis, and within a week all of the slots were taken, with plenty of folks waiting in wings to pounce if a spot should come available.
And so here we were, months later, after plenty of hurdles, learning about 1st Special Forces Group, talking to soldiers, talking to Ed’s chain of command. It was AMAZING and the friendships that were developed are now those that everyone will cherish.
And so I raised the M4 to my cheek, took a deep breathe, and squeezed. In a matter of minutes the feeling of acquiring a proper sight picture came back to me. I was sending rounds downrange, and loving every second of it. All of the months of hard work was finally in motion, and to see everyone smiling, and talking to each other made all of it worthwhile. To listen to Mike and have him thank all of us for what we had done for his family, simply reaffirmed the fact that we had done what we were meant to – to help others.
During the next three days, plenty of us would be on hand to suffer through the crucible of the GORUCK MLCH, some of us were blessed to lift, crawl, roll, carry, and whatever else was necessary to accomplish the tasks given. And Mike was there. He suffered right alongside all of us, and THAT is what matters the most. His son Arden fights the strong fight, and it shows where he gets it from. At the end of the long event weekend, there will be the GOOD, the BAD, and the UGLY. To those three, I say well done! To learn about how far you can push your body, go find them. Sign up for a GORUCK MLCH (if it ever happens again).
To everyone who supported this cause, I want to personally thank you. You have helped the son of a soldier, you have helped a family, and most importantly – you have made a difference in this life.
To Mike, Renee, and Arden – Thank you for allowing a bunch of weirdo’s into your lives. I promise we won’t get any better with time, only worse!
To all of our sponsors – GORUCK, Tim Kennedy, Spartan Blades, SHplates, Trauma1, All Day Ruckoff, I’ll make sure I keep you in mind for next year as I know we’ll only want to top the standard that was set.
To all of the soldiers of families of 1st SFG – Thank you for your sacrifices to the greatest country on this earth! God Bless All of You!
TEAM FIRST – OTHERS ALWAYS