The Team Jesse Foundation
Mission: To provide education and support for families of fallen soldiers in honor of SSG Jesse Williams


Mission: To provide education and support to families of fallen soldiers in honor of SSG Jesse Williams

Paying Respect (Day Twelve)

We started knowing that it would be a day of riding before the much-awaited rest day.  It seems like months since the last time we had a day off, but really it’s been only seven days.  And, in those days, so much has happened.  Makes a fella wonder about how the next seven are going to change us.

We started by heading out through some farmlands where there were some very large irrigation rigs.  The green sod was a sharp contrast to what we’d seen so far.  We put some miles in while talking about life, business, purpose and family.  I know that seems like a lot, but we’re learning to be very efficient!

After a bit, we stopped to talk to some folks, as we sometimes do.  We were lucky enough to come across a guy whose name would be difficult to forget:  Roy Rogers.  Roy is a Vietnam Veteran who was in SE Asia from 1968-1970.  He enjoyed hearing about what we were doing and warned us to be careful, as he knew that there were a lot of careless drivers out there.  We started talking about his life since the Army, and it hasn’t been easy.  He has had dozens of surgeries and he joked that he’s falling apart and barely even patched together at this point.  He had a great sense of character about him, though, and we listened as he told us about him.  Turns out that some people just want to be heard, and they never get the opportunity.  For us, it was an opportunity to listen.  After a bit, we pedaled away, both of us knowing that we’d been meant to meet Roy Rogers, US Army Veteran.

Next, there came something that felt like it had a little Déjà vu.  Kevin and I were at mile 22 or so, and we were trudging up a steady hill.  I can’t say that it was monotonous, but it was…well…not very exciting.  Then, it got to be very memorable.  I’d been out in front of Kevin by a hundred yards or so, then all of the sudden he was just ten feet behind me pushing it hard.  “On your left”, he said as he passed me like I was standing still.  Now…we are both pretty competitive people, so there was something about the way he passed me that begged for a reaction.  Next thing I know, we’re gunning it up this eight mile stretch of hill, racing each other like children.  It was a blast.  We both attacked with faster reps, higher gears and the timing of our approaches.   We each tried to bait the other one into slowing down, only to be attacked again.  We challenged ourselves and each other in a different way than we’d done so far.  We battled until the summit, and legs were burning by the time we leveled off.  I won’t say who summited first, but I’ll say that it was close and that there were at least 7 or 8 lead changes along the way.  Looking back, I think we did it because we knew that the course was relatively tame and we had the next day off.  Either way, we were looking to challenge ourselves and compete against each other.  Since then, I have realized that the Déjà vu part comes from this stage reminding me of being a kid and riding bikes and competing in various forms with my brother.   Like how I smoked him at Ping Pong and hoops last time I saw him…

So, after conquering yet another summit, we leveled out to come across another unique sighting: some cowboys (along with them a cowgirl who couldn’t have been older than nine) and around seven working dogs herding a large group of sheep across the road.  There were hundreds of them, and they were very vocal about being guided, all thought they’d clearly ‘seen this movie before’.  All traffic stopped and we watched the ranchers push the sheep up a hill and over the other side, out of sight.

After stopping for a quick bite, we looked at the rest of the day; we had a mere 28 miles to go, and it was pretty flat.  At the end, though, we knew that we were in for something emotional, as the day’s course ended at the Afghanistan and Iraq Veterans Memorial.   Clearly this had the potential of being a tough day for Kevin, and I wasn’t sure how he was going to handle it.  But, I was glad that both Heather and I would be there with him.

We headed toward Cedar City, where the memorial was.  We rode in silence, and I’m pretty sure that, in the two hours, nothing was said.  Also fairly certain that it wasn’t because we’d aired a lot of conversation that morning.  There was heaviness in the air.  Not necessarily a bad one, but a somber one that deserved respect.  So we just rode.

When we got there, the silence continued.  Kevin was deep in thought and observance and took the time to walk back and forth, reading the names written on the large wall.  The wall was dedicated to soldiers from the State of Utah that had lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It was a beautiful memorial, and Kevin sat for a few moments to think about what he was seeing, and I sat by his side.  Afterwards, he got up and slowly walked over to the other adjacent memorials.  WWII, Korean War and Vietnam War memorials were on the same grounds.  The road leading up to the Memorial Parks is called Freedom Drive.

I can’t read minds, and Kevin didn’t tell me how he felt.  I do know him well, though, and if I had to guess how he felt, and pick one word to describe it, I’d pick gratefulGrateful because he saw the community’s acknowledgement of his fellow soldiers; the memorials were done very tastefully and were very well kept.   Grateful because of the fellow soldiers themselves; although he didn’t know any of these honorees personally, he knew heroes that were listed on other walls, for other communities to reflect upon and honor.  And, he knows all too well the meaning of sacrifice and he knows about what earned these men and women a place on the wall.  I would have to echo Kevin on any sentiments of gratitude.  We all should.  With it, take the opportunity to act.

I’m writing this on our rest day, and we’ll use it to touch base with some escalating Team Jesse opportunities and some new media inquiries.  Also, there’s laundry and some muscle recovery.

After our rest day, the next six-day ride stretch begins.  We leave first for Panguitich, UT and after six days rest again in Telluride, CO.  Looking at the ride plan, it will be the most challenging week yet, by far.  In one two-day stretch, for example, we ride for 225 miles and climb well over 10,000 feet.  I have to admit that it looks a little bit like the storm clouds on Day Eleven.

For the Families of the Fallen…To the Limit.

Care Creates Community,

Matt Sauri

News, RideMatt S