Grief is a powerful force. It can be fuel for destruction or for resurgence. I’ve noticed that the greater the love and admiration you have for someone, the more suffocating the loss can be. But, oh what a mark those people that we love and lose leave on our lives.
I know this grief personally and deeply. Everything in my life changed on Thanksgiving Day 2014 when my family received the call that my brother David had been killed in Afghanistan – only two days before he was to come home for the holidays. The next three years would prove to be devastating for our family. Every day was marked by grief, anger, sleepless nights, and pain hard to put into words. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that my brother was not coming home; I struggled every day to accept it. (Quite frankly, I still do.) During that time, I knew I had to find an outlet, some way to deal with the loss while still keeping my brother alive in my heart. I clung to people who knew him, or knew people like him, in hopes that they could understand what I was going through. Somehow, I felt these connections would help me through my grief. I also felt that I needed to do something, something to honor David.
So, in an effort to begin to heal, I chose to participate in events that I could train for, events that would push me, challenge me, and enable me to honor my brother. I first rucked with a group of friends for “A Hero’s 5K”; a short time later, my brother Matt and I along with a few of David’s Special Forces brothers ran the Myrtle Beach Half Marathon, all wearing shirts with his name on them. Then, last year, I decided I wanted to do something special on Memorial Day to honor him while raising funds for the Green Beret Foundation. In merely 10 days, my dear friend helped me plan and execute what turned out to be a successful event, both in terms of participation and funds raised for the GBF. More than 300 cyclists, both novice and experienced, turned out to ride 10-, 30-, and 70-mile routes, and joined us for a cookout to celebrate the rides and the heroes we honor on Memorial Day. As I looked at the faces and listened to the stories of those who joined us that day, I broke down in tears. I knew David would have been so proud of me and proud to see so many appreciate his sacrifice and that of so many others. I knew this ride was something I wanted to continue to build on, taking it to greater levels every year. And so I created the Hard Hitter GORUCK and Ride, an event that encourages all of us to push ourselves as hard and as far as those brave men and women pushed themselves for us and our country.
Memorial Day weekend is the time we set aside to honor the lives and the sacrifices of our military and their families. It is a time to reflect on the people who have fought for our freedom, who have shown great courage and bravery, and ultimately gave their lives doing so.
David lived a bold life. He was courageous, strong, brave, compassionate, and full of life. He was someone you could count on. Someone you wanted to be around. Someone who wouldn’t give up. What an honor to get to be a part of continuing his legacy – a privilege to keep the fire alive that burned brightly in him.
I invite you to join us on Memorial Day weekend to remember David and to pay tribute to the many men and women for whom this holiday is for.