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

Departure of the Documentarians (47) & Take me to the River (48)

Departure of the Documentarians (Day Forty-Seven) “The only bad thing about brakes is that they tend to slow you down” – Andrew ‘Harvey’ Durtschi, somewhere around Day Ten

As we rode off, it was loud. Not unlike the clap of thunder the previous evening. Somehow it was louder, though it didn’t register on any kind of decibel chart, then or now. It was also more constant that the rumbling thunder. I think it was starting to make me deaf, and I can’t wait to adjust to it completely. The sound was later to be identified as ‘the deafening sound of silence’, triggered by the departure of our media crew. Harvey and Brett had been with us since Day Zero, and they had become as much a part of the experience as anyone or anything else. Austin joined them at the beginning of Act Two, and with him came another set of skills and a new fingerprint of humanity. It’s very different to be without them, even if only for a short time. They are true documentarians, seeking truth yet understanding that stories can’t be told, or rather, won’t be heard, without a creative way to tell them, or a gravitational way of hearing them. So, it has been fun to have them along, a pleasure to know them and a huge opportunity for the Team Jesse Foundation work with them. In fact, the reason for their hiatus is that, upon review of some of their early footage, it was deemed that their work is very good indeed. So good, in fact, that some a new future for the end product is on the table. And, some acceleration in editing is required in order for us to hit deadlines that will allow for consideration in some such things, which may include certain film festivals and finale events in Manhattan on September 13th. It’s very exciting, yet still feels like I was just asked to give someone ‘space’ because it’s ‘better for both of us’. Only difference is, this time I’m a grown-up (sort-of) and this time I agree with ‘her’. Documentarian Team: we will follow along, as planned, per your instruction, to keep up your work. Our hope is to do half the job you’ve done. A request from us: GET BACK HERE ASAP! EDIT FILM…24/7!

Anyway, we pedaled off and it felt a bit different. Every now and then, The Ride brings an interaction that reinforces the mission of The Foundation, and meeting Patty was no different. The loss that a sibling feels is often forgotten when compared to that of a parent or child. But…I can’t even imagine the pain that it would bring. If something ever happened to my brother, Michael, I would be a wreck for a long, long time. A lot would have to happen for me to heal. So, off I pedaled, with a mission that could not immediately be accomplished, but one that had to be fought through. Kevin and I wound up having some ‘passionate discussion’ (read: debate) around some ways to achieve some things on the execution strategies of The Ride. We each took a ‘time out’, and upon our convergence, we had come to some conclusions about our differences and both immediately realized that we wanted the same thing. We came to the conclusion that our debate had come from passion to do this thing the right way, and in the most efficient, effective way as possible. While we had no immediate solutions to where we weren’t seeing each other’s tactical point of view, it’s very true that we respected the position of the other. A good exercise.

We arrived in the quaint village of Elizabethtown to settle in. We were greeted by a great fella named David Humphrey, who just wanted to know what we were up to, and if he could be of any help. He handed me a business card, and you gotta love this guy’s title: ‘Retired’, it said. I gave him one of my Team Jesse cards, and before I even got to the finish of the story, he had donated to our cause. Mr. Humphrey gave us all the town’s history that we could digest in our 20 minutes with him, and it was interesting to hear the calmness in his voice when he spoke of the horrific flooding that had occurred just months before. The place had been under water, and you’d never know. It would turn out to be the more easily-explained of some of the town’s unique history.

We checked into the Rose Hotel, and it was very different than any place we’d stayed. You see, E-Town, as it’s known, is nestled in on the Ohio River, and as I mentioned, it’s quaint. But, all that it’s got are a few B&Bs. No hotels. So, we checked in and found it to be really cool. While I have to admit that it was strange sharing a room in a Bed and Breakfast with Kevin Mincio, the place was unique; it was the oldest lodging of any kind in the state of Illinois; it was right on the river, with a gazebo and bridge and bluffs. The hosts were peerless in their hospitality. And, it was, by far, the best breakfast we’d had. Only weird part about it was that, at breakfast, Mince and I were told that it’s well documented that the wing we were staying in is haunted. Books have been written, pictures have been taken and much has been made of it. Personally, I was relieved to know that it was a ghost, not my friend from Long Island, that was making all that racket in the middle of the night.

Perhaps the best part was that the town’s people, and particularly the gracious owner of the Rose, Sandy, had been following our journey and will continue to do so. Maybe we can get some of the ghosts on board too!

Take me to the River (Day Forty-Eight)

After a good night’s sleep and an even better breakfast, we started towards the border. It took us no time to jump back into some of the previous day’s difficult topics, this time each of us bringing some solutions to the table. The end result is a game plan that is much better than we ever would have had if we’d just selfishly kept our differences to ourselves. It felt great in so many ways, and I was grinning from ear to ear about how we are going to get things done. Still grinning as I write this. It was starting to seem like a whirlwind. We were about to leave Illinois; hadn’t we just gotten there? This particular crossing was going to be different, for sure. We had to take a ferry to cross into Kentucky. It was a great experience in and of itself, and with a solid game plan we’d gotten in place in the first ten miles of the day, we had given ourselves the opportunity to enjoy the entrance to Kentucky.

There’s something about this state, and I’m sure what it is, but it’s special. There is a charm about it; there’s something about the way its name sounds; something about its history, its roots. When I think of Kentucky (or Cain-Tuck), I think of a genuine quality. I think of bluegrass and bourbon, yes, but I also think of sincerity and a down-home pride that can’t be faked. We both were feeling it and seeking answers about it at the same time. At risk of sounding extreme, I felt that there is something so…American…about Kentucky.

I’ll use this opportunity to share a story with you about Kevin. When I had met Mince, 6 years before, and was walking down the street with him so that I could get to know him a little better. He had just gotten home from Iraq, and my goal was to see how he’d do, culturally, with an employment opportunity with one of my clients. As we walked to a local restaurant, I noticed a very shocking and disrespectful poster stapled to a telephone pole. It said at the top “enlist now” and then the middle of its frame showed a photo of a mangled soldier. At the bottom, it said “we need more cowards”. I was horrified and very angry about the sign. So, while waiting at the corner for the light to change, I reluctantly asked Kevin, ‘Doesn’t this [make you mad]?’. He looked at the poster and said, ‘Not at all. That’s why we do what we do as soldiers for the United States. We do it so that people can say whatever they want to say, whenever they want to say it. We live in a free country, and it’s not up to me to decide what they want to say…’.

I will never forget that moment of truth, and I was starting to tie it to the idea of Kentucky, or at least try and draw a comparison in my head. Then…out of nowhere, ahead of us, I saw…could it be?

Yes, it was a horse and buggy coming up the road. Kevin was ahead of me, and neither of us could believe our eyes at first. There were two women and a few kids. One of them was feeding an infant and they all smiled as we pedaled past. My thoughts on America were validated in a most unlikely way. They smiled at us as we pedaled past.

Not long after, I was further delighted to hear my friend, his head up and stress free, notice a bunch of hawks flying high. “Look, Matty, there are like seven of ‘em!’. You see, it’s just great to see him taking the opportunity to notice things like that. It’s rare that he’ll beat me in noticing the birds, but he did this time and I couldn’t be happier. (Mama Bear – it’s working!)

We had a great day on Forty-Eight. We were ‘all teeth’ (that means we were smiling and happy) all day, and the course turned into a giant green rollercoaster that was thick with a pleasant humidity and lots of turns. While very few cars passed us, the trail was far from lonely. The sounds of birds and insects were different at every turn, and even the aforementioned insect sounds were pleasant; it wasn’t like they were crawling on us; they were just there and wanted us to know. The state of Kentucky is going to have me searching for new ways to describe plants, as I’ll only be able to use the words ‘lush’, ‘thick’ and ‘rich’ so many times.

In the end, we’d enjoyed 70 miles of Kentucky country road and climbed over 3,000 feet while enjoying its hills and turns. Both of us are pumped to know that we have a bunch of the state left. We have been warned by many about dogs, though so hopefully there isn’t too much excitement in that area. I’d rather have it be just Kevin and I that were the ones being ‘all teeth’. 

Kevin’s going to take this post for a few days, and I’m glad you’ll have the opportunity to get his perspective…I know that I always am!

For the Families of the Fallen…To the Limit!

Care Creates Community,

Matt Sauri