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

All in the Family (Day Seventy-Four)

Opportunities. Some are hidden, some are seen. Often they’re collected by those who are keen. Some lay forgotten, some are heard. Many are provided by those who’ve kept their word.

Day Seventy-Four marked the beginning of a two day journey to our nation’s capital. It was the first day back from a two day break from riding, and the time off of the bikes had been largely family-themed. I’ll always remember the day as a special one, largely because of the dynamics of the team on that day. We had engaged two new guest riders, and each has played a special role in my life over the years. Also, our SAG crew had some guest crew, and these new members performed beyond expectation in a memorable way. We got started with a surprise; guest Adam ‘Jocko’ Hughes was feeling patriotic; he had seen legend of our…um…swimwear and thought he’d join us. After all, it was his inspiration that originally led us to don the speedos (technically known as ‘Turbos’). So, he elected to wear a pair of them while riding. All day. Not sure how that worked out, but he was heard to be asking for ibuprofen and other analgesic products when the day was done. Looking back, I can say that Jocko’s humor was a welcome buffer from the angst that comes from getting ready to say goodbye to family. At the first SAG stop, the team went to work. Stevie-Boy (or Sierra Bravo) was joined by his two new assistants; ‘Horsehead 18’ and ‘Sugar 4’ flanked him and made quick strides to become very valuable members of the team. Both got the hang of it quickly, and tasks were divided in an orderly, team-like fashion. As Sierra Bravo told them, ‘we know we’ve done our job when they (the riders) begin to tell us ‘no’.’ Horsehead 18 was a particularly adept radio operator, and by the end of the day she’d learned a lot and was a very effective part of the crew. Our other guest rider, Michael, is a guy I’ve known for a long time; we’ve always had a healthy, unyielding rivalry, and I’ll never forget the time I beat him at hoops with the final play being a drive to the basket after I had bounced the ball between his legs and scooped it up after I ran by him. That’s an all-time favorite of mine. Anyway, back to the ride…I enjoyed his company all day long, and it was beyond special to be able to share this experience, even for a few days, with him. He actually has a good amount of cycling experience, even though it’s been a few years.

The course itself was relatively tame, although we did manage to find almost 2,000 feet to climb. Our course was just a hair over fifty miles, and it carried some very diverse characteristics. It was relatively cool, and the sun shone through the trees and danced on the blacktop and the breeze blew the leaves around. Neighborhoods would show up unannounced, as the suburban sprawl turned rural before becoming suburban again. It was tough to define or predict what you’d see next, as the area had not seemed to define itself on its own. It was clear that, by the day’s end, we were on the approach to the mid-Atlantic’s big cities. Some of the ways that this was shown were unfortunate, but truth is not worth avoiding, and it is what it is. So, I’ll share a little of it. Mince was ahead of us by around 200 yards or so; Michael and I were pedaling, just happy to be on the course. Jocko was bringing up the rear (so to speak) and behind us by another 100 or so. We crested a hill in a neighborhood and were taunted by a group of three thugs who clearly wanted us to engage them. They had nothing better to do, and it was obvious; we just pedaled past, despite their attempts to rattle us. It was then that Michael suggested we stop and wait for Jocko, which we did. He was riding by himself and his attire was such that we were fearful he’d get the worst of it. But, alas, they simply had a good laugh at him and he pedaled on. They must have thought that he was crazy, riding around like that. Or, maybe it’s because everyone loves Jocko. Either way, the Sarge was almost radioed in for a support call, and that would have made for a bad day for the three stooges.

What I’ll remember most from the day was the way that Team Jesse engaged the support crew. Adam Hughes is someone that Kevin and I have known for a long time, and he has been involved with every Team Jesse Lacrosse effort that has been fielded. So, he was a no-brainer to have along and we were pumped to get his comic relief and friendship. As far as the rest of the guests, SAG and rider alike, it was special for me to have them out there. Just as special was the way that Kevin made way for this to be a priority; the mission was never in jeopardy, but we were frequent in getting away from our SOPs (standard operating procedures) and deadlines, timelines and the normal grit that accompanies the first day back from a rest were missing. There was a deliberate relaxation that came with the day, and i have to say it was big of Mince to not only allow it to happen, but insist that it did. It was a commitment to principles and another sign of outstanding leadership.

Stevie-Boy was just as remarkable. I’ll never forget the patience, selflessness and careful consideration he displayed on Seventy-Four. He acted with purpose and compassion as he set about being a crew chief. He somehow never allowed for the mission to be compromised, yet he allowed for his new team to participate in a meaningful, memorable way. I’ll never forget it, and neither will Horsehead 18 and Sugar 4.

Because of the follow-through and commitment of the Team Jesse Ride team, I had the opportunity to enjoy this day with my brother (Michael) and daughters (Madilyn, AKA Horsehead 18 and Evelyn, Sugar 4). Imagine hearing your 9-year old daughter over the radio, telling you that the road was narrow up ahead and to watch out. What an incredible experience, to say the least. When we arrived at the hotel and said our goodbyes, we went to meet more special people. Damien and Richard were their names, and Damien is Papa Bear’s goddaughter. Kevin hadn’t seen her in years, though it was clear they’d had lots of shared childhood memories. Damien and Richard then played the ‘hidden bill trick’ and treated us to a wonderful dinner; both of them are great people, and we’ll be seeing Damien again in Annapolis.

It’s all about the family, and it’s all about the people.

For the Families of the Fallen…To the Limit!

Care Creates Community,

Matt Sauri