Friday, November 16, 2012

A Tragedy That Touches Us All

Sometimes things happen that stop you in your tracks and instantly pull you through the superficial into the reality of life's drama.

On Thursday night, November 15, I was sitting in my den comparing work days with my wife, Mary Anne.  Our TV was on the news but was muted so we could talk.  We both saw the map of Texas appear, showing Midland with the caption "Train Wreck" or "Train Accident" or whatever it said.  We continued our conversation without a comment about the image we had just seen.

Within 10 minutes, I heard my phone's Anchors Aweigh ringtone upstairs, but didn't go after it.  There would be time later to see who called.

When I looked at the phone a little later, there was a text from our vice president, Billy Hodges, that said, "Call me ASAP."  I thought one of our planned hunts had a glitch we would need to work out.

Billy's first words were, "It isn't us!"

I said, "What do you mean, it isn't us?"

Then he told me what happened in Midland.

Mary Anne reacted to my side of the conversation as she heard me repeat what I was hearing:  "four dead" and "17 injured" and "was it the Show of Support group?" and "how did it happen?"

After I hung up from Billy, I shook my head one final time and started thinking about what is next.

It's About the Warriors

Right now, everyone's focus should be on the families not on the tragedy of the event.  Military families see tragedy all too often.  Whether it happens to their family directly or to other service families, it is, unfortunately, part of life when your chosen path places you in harm's way.

Any tragedy deserves attention, but when it happens to those who have already given so much, and to have it happen in such a random fashion during a patriotic celebration of the American Spirit, creates an irony that makes this a very bitter pill to swallow.  The question is can we turn the intensity of this event into a positive force to benefit our wounded warriors?

Starting tomorrow, media coverage will concentrate on who, what, when, where, why, and how.  That is Journalism 101.  The blame game and finger pointing will start and, for a week, this will be big news.  It will then fade into periodic 30-second spots or two-paragraph fillers as more details come out.  Within a month, the "story" will be old news, only to be resurrected if a scandal is uncovered or "created."

The real story is our warriors and their families deserve our respect, appreciation, and ongoing support to repay, in some small measure, their sacrifices.  The story is there are dozens and dozens of organizations that step up every day to make sure our warrior families get much-needed care.  The story is many of our wounded are going to stay wounded, either physically or with wounds to their peace-of-mind.  The story is they, and those who came before, should never be forgotten.

The story that needs to come out is there are many organizations doing something about "it."  Patriots and Heroes Outdoors and The Link-Up are just two of dozens of like-minded groups that create opportunities for wounded warrior families to enjoy outdoor activities.  There are many groups that focus on the emotional challenges, others that offer financial advice and refining job search skills.  Many corporations are stepping up to be counted.  This is the story that should capture the nation's attention.

The good people of Midland, Texas are going to face a lot of scrutiny at a time when they are most vulnerable.  I hope their real story of patriotism and commitment doesn't get lost in the process because it is also your and my story and it needs to be told.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

93Q FM/Miller 64 Beer Run

Manny, Kevin, and Rod
On Thursday, June 21, Kevin Kline of the Q Morning Zoo broadcast team accepted a challenge from Miller Brewing Company to run 64 miles in one day to promote Miller 64 Beer.  They decided to make it a fundraising event and selected Patriots and Heroes Outdoors as the beneficiary of their efforts.  Local runners in Houston were invited to join Kevin for any portion of the 4.0 mile lap around Rice University and through Rice Village.

Miller 64 Promo Poster

Brian O'Neill's

Headquarters was Brian O’Neill’s Restaurant & Pub in Rice Village.  Water for the event was donated by EvaMor Water.

EvaMor Water

93Q and EvaMor set up tents next to the restaurant for the starting line and rest station for Kevin and the other runners.

Kevin Getting Ready
Kevin and fellow runners started at 10 a.m.  A lap counter sign showed 16 laps.  Temperatures that day in Houston were in the high 90°Fs and with Houston’s famous humidity, the heat index was well over 100 degrees.  I stayed in the shade next to the water supply and Kami Krouse, the rep for EvaMor.  By the end of the day, Kami knew as much about PHO and our mission as anyone and I was an expert on the health and nutritional value of EvaMor water.

64 Miles To Go

John Breland with 93Q’s sales office coordinated the day and was supported by the radio station’s marketing staff.  Great group.  Kevin does a lot of these ultra-marathons and John and team know how to back him up.  The station also did their afternoon broadcast from the restaurant.

MillerCoors Houston Distributing was out in force to promote Miller 64 and support the event, as did the other restaurants and clubs along Morningside Street in Rice Village.  It turned into a big block party.

Kevin’s best support, though, was his wife Trish.  She is the queen of aid station support.  Throughout the day and into the night Trish made sure Kevin had water, Gatorade, food or a dry shirt when he needed it.  Other friends from their running clubs also hung with them for much of the event.

Kevin would stop after each lap and rehydrate and down rice, potatoes, or other body fuel to keep him going.  Other runners came and went, running some laps and left, while other hung with Kevin for almost the entire run.

The run went from 10 a.m. Thursday morning until nearly 1 a.m. Friday morning.  Kevin never stopped for more than a few minutes before heading out for the next lap.  The only time he stopped for a longer period was when some special guests arrived.

We flew four wounded warriors and their escort from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C. to Houston on Thursday to attend the Msgt. Gonzales Memorial Fishing Tournament the next day (more on that later).  Kevin asked if he would get a chance to meet them.

The guys arrived around 4 p.m.  By then Kevin had run approximately 30 miles.  We took them into the restaurant for an early dinner and to rest before heading down to Sargent, Texas for fishing.

The warriors were a little in awe to fly in and immediately be dropped in the middle of a large group of enthusiastic supporters.  They were unaware of what was going on outside.  I explained what was happening and that Kevin was doing this to show support for them.  It made a huge impression, but not as much as when Kevin came through the door -- sweating and winded but excited to get to meet them.

They thanked him for what he was doing and he, in turn, thanked them for their service and sacrifice.  A lot of mutual admiration going on at that moment.

Pictures were taken and Kevin headed back out for his next lap.  The warriors’ eyes lit up when the Miller Girls joined them for a picture.  The warriors loaded back on our weathered, wheelchair-accessible bus (we could use a new one by the way) and headed down to Sargent for the fishing tournament Friday and Saturday.

After lap eleven (44 miles), the strain and fatigue started showing on Kevin when he would come in from a lap.  Not much we could do but offer encouragement and cheer him on.  I thought it was a good time to tell him about how much it had meant to the soldiers to have someone go the extra mile for them.  When someone suggested he could knock a lap or two off, he said “did the wounded warriors ever take anything off?”

The last laps had to be the hardest.  Not only from the extended effort, but by that time of night Rice Village’s clubs and restaurants were packed with young people out for the evening.  Almost all were oblivious to Kevin’s running.

The last NBA Finals game was going on so there was a lot of whooping and hollering going on inside.  Too bad most of them didn’t understand the real champion of the evening wasn’t LaBron James.

Happy Feet
Kevin and a few fellow hardcore runners finished just before 1 a.m. Friday morning.  Exhausted, sore, and completely soaked with sweat, Kevin sat down while Trish helped get his shoes and socks off.  John brought over a cooler of ice and Kevin put his bare feet on the ice.  Could have sworn I saw steam coming out of the cooler.


We packed up to go home while the late night crowd wandered the streets or waited in line at the taco truck parked next to us.  Kevin’s friends and fellow runners said good night and headed home.

I asked Kevin to sign a poster for PHO.  True to form and unselfish to the end, he wrote "PHO -- Thank you for letting me honor you with my run."

Quite an evening.  MillerCoors Houston Distributing donated $100 per mile to PHO.  Total donations for the night were right at $7,000.  We got some great visibility through the event promotion by 93Q.  And I got something, too.

Through my involvement with PHO, I am very fortunate to be around a lot of heroes.  Each one inspires me.  As of 1:00 a.m. that Friday morning, I have a new personal hero -- Kevin Kline.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Leona River Ranch

With the regular deer season over, there are still plenty of opportunities for hunting trips to management ranches.  We are blessed to have several of these ranches that support our efforts.  One such is the Leona River Ranch.

Below is our vice-president Billy Hodges’ report on a great trip for some very worthy Marines.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New Legislation in New Mexico

The following blog entry is from Billy Hodges, our vice president.  In it, he mentions a piece of legislation passed in New Mexico last year that will be very helpful to our organization and reviews several hunts hosted by good friends of Patriots and Heroes Outdoors - Eric and Debbie Armstrong.

Last summer, New Mexico governor Susana Martinez signed Senate Bill 262.  Dubbed the HUNTS FOR HEROES BILL, it allows wounded warriors a discounted, non-resident hunting licenses fee.  Hunting licenses for deer, antelope, elk, javelina, and turkey may be sold to non-resident, disabled U.S. military members or veterans at resident license fee rates if the applicant is undergoing a rehabilitation program utilizing hunting activities supported by the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) or an authorized non-profit organization.  The passage of the bill is already paying dividends to PATRIOTS AND HEROES OUTDOORS.

CPT Zeno McCoy returned to Cimarron, NM in November.  Eric and Debbie Armstrong had hosted Zeno the year before, but he returned to Fort Hood empty handed.  The elk were much more plentiful this year and Zeno scored his first elk on the first day of the hunt.

New Friends Sharing Good Times
The Armstrongs hosted three more wounded warriors from Fort Hood during November.  Debbie cooked a traditional Thanksgiving meal on the wood stove in the camp house.  The house sits in a five mile long valley flanked by 10,000-foot mountains.  Snow this year covered the peaks down to about 7,000 feet.  On the floor of the valley runs a clear stream rimmed with aspen trees.

Wounded Warrior SSG Pedro Ayala
with elk in New Mexico

Herds of elk move in and out of the trees feeding on lush grass in the valley. In this beautiful backdrop, our guests harvested three cow elk.

Antelope taken in New Mexico

In December, we completed the third of four events being held in New Mexico this hunting season.  The first was an antelope hunt for four wounded warriors from Fort Hood’s Warrior Transition Brigade.

They harvested four trophy “goats” in five days and called in several very unlucky coyotes.  One of the coyotes was even taken with a pistol.