I stumbled upon GORUCK through my gym. I was working out with some guys that were trying to get NSF contracts and GORUCK came up in conversation. I had run a few Spartan races and was looking for my next physical challenge and GORUCK sounded like a good time.
I went to the website to learn more and sign up. Digging around I came across a page that said GORUCK was “Building Better Americans.” I vaguely remember chuckling about the concept.
I thought, “Sure, you can build better backpacks. You can build better events. But, build better Americans? Ok, whatever. Just let me do your little event thing.”
I registered for a winter GORUCK Tough in Richmond, but an injury set me back and I had to bump my registration to a July 4th event. This proved to be a most fortunate circumstance.
As the event got closer, Cadre Machin posted on the event page. As a team we were to:
Now, sadly, like many Americans, I could only really do 1 of the above (I had a US Flag patch), but I had researched enough about GORUCK to know that I had better be prepared to answer all of these or risk Cadre unleashing a fury of pain upon my team. So, for 4 days I immersed myself in the American Revolution.
Truthfully, this was the first time I had thought about or studied the American Revolution since grade school. Unlike in grade school, I loved it. It was so refreshing and fascinating as an adult to look back at the founding of our country and to familiarize myself with the characters, the circumstances, and the actions that led to the great revolution. I found myself thinking more and more about America and all that I had taken for granted as it relates to the forming of our nation.
But, the interest and appreciation lasted far past the event. I found myself downloading iTunes courses on the Revolution and reading books about the Revolution. I grabbed a copy of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and devoured it. As an American, I wanted to better understand why we did what we did and, for once in my life, I began to understand where we’ve come from and what America meant to those who formed her.
When the day of the event arrived, I showed up ready to work. And work we did. Side by side with men and women from all kinds of backgrounds. I met a number of civilians, like myself, but the event provided me the opportunity to meet and work alongside veterans and some active duty service members.
While I have members of my family who have served, it wasn’t ever something that was talked about of brought up very often. Personally, outside of one conversation with a recruiter in High School, the idea of joining the military never crossed my mind. So, outside of the occasional “oh, we’re involved in another war,” the soldiers that serve our country were simply something I didn’t think about.
But now, having suffered alongside these men and women, carrying heavy stuff in the pouring down rain, and (more importantly) getting to know them and their stories, something has changed. I find myself more and more thinking about the members of our military. I think about our veterans. I find myself taking my kids to events at the Virginia War Memorial and I find myself wanting to be involved in things that support the men and women who protect our liberties. I find myself, for the first time ever, asking my wife’s grandfather, a WWII vet, to tell me his stories. I even found myself buying an American flag.
I’ve never been “a flag guy.” I think it has to do with the fact that I’m often disappointed with the political decisions of our country and I’ve never wanted to fly a flag and say, “Rah, Rha, America is awesome.” But, the more time I’ve spent reflecting on our nations forming, the freedoms and liberties that our forefathers sought to establish, and the men and women who have, and still do, lay their lives down to protect me, my families, and our freedom, something changed. When I look at that flag now, I don’t see the political mess. I see the men and women who gave “the last full measure of devotion” and it makes me want to be more “highly resolved that these dead shall not have died in vain.”
So, I now fly my flag as a reminder that freedom is never free.
I signed up for a GORUCK Tough because I thought it would be hard, and I like doing hard things. I laughed when I read that they were trying to “Build Better Americans.” A year later, I’ve come to realize that GORUCK wasn’t kidding about their mission. Not only that, but they were actually doing it. I think I’m proof.