If Not Me - Then Who? (Days Seventy-Six and Seventy-Seven)
August 24th has been on our radar since The Ride began in Santa Rosa on June 9th on Jesse's 30th birthday. Janet Manion was there that day. I remember telling her I would see her in Arlington as we said good-bye. Our plan was to visit her son Marine 1LT Travis Manion and Navy LT Brendan Looney. Travis and Brendan were best friends and roommates at the Naval Academy. Travis gave his life for his country on April 29th, 2007 in Iraq, three weeks to the day from when Jesse was killed. Both were taken from us by snipers. Both died during engagements and both died fighting hard for their comrades. It’s no wonder they were targets of snipers. Brendan was a Navy SEAL and also gave his life protecting our freedom less than one year ago on September 21, 2010 in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. We knew the Looneys through the sport of lacrosse. Brendan and his 2 brothers, Billy and Steven, played together at the Naval Academy and were members of the Team Jesse and Wimmer Solutions lacrosse family.
I am a firm believer in preparation. If you care about something, you prepare for it. I take this very seriously (to put it mildly!) and I impress this upon the people I manage in my professional life and those I encounter in my personal life. Day Seventy-Six was all about preparation. We needed to make sure our visit to Arlington to see Travis and Brendan was executed properly. While Matt was taking a much deserved day hiatus from The Ride to visit his daughter Alex in Baltimore, who was going off to college, the Team on the ground in DC focused on preparation. We recon'd the route, which is a good thing, since getting to the Arlington front gate from Alexandria via bike is a little tricky with the Pentagon between the two locations. We determined our plan for the next day - meeting spots, where to leave the bikes, etc. - and even timed how long the walk was from the visitors center to lot 40, where Brendan and Travis rest together. Thanks to the help of Sr Routemaster Kevin Collins, Sierra Bravo and Jocko Hughes, the recon was a huge success and proved to be very important for the next day's mission.
We met Travis' mother Janet and Brendan's parents Kevin and Maureen along with his sister Kellie at the resting place. We were honored to see the site decorated with a magnificent wreath with a Team Jesse banner. It was a short, but emotional visit. We were joined by longtime comrade Josh Rachman, as friend of the Looney brothers and former Army Ranger himself. It was an honor and a privilege to have Josh covering our six (aka back) physically and emotionally. Trust me, if you met Josh, you would know what I mean. Many of us call him Rock and if anyone deserves this name, Josh does. Afterwards, we headed to lunch and listened to more stories about Travis and Brendan and celebrated their lives. The men were extraordinary athletes and soldiers, both individually and as members of teams. Sitting with the two mothers of these fallen heroes and listening to the stories about their sons first hand was something I will never forget. How lucky we were to have this opportunity. Thank you again Janet and Maureen.
The visit to Arlington ended with a trip to the nearby Pentagon where we were treated to a personal tour by Christi Collins. We visited the 9/11 memorial that pays tribute to the soldiers and civilians who lost their lives that day. We saw both the memorials inside, which requires a pass and an escort and the public memorial outside, which is available to the public and allows photography. Both are extremely emotional places to visit and remind us of the loss of lives at the Pentagon that day, one that is often overshadowed by what happened in New York City and Shanksville.
On the way out, we had yet another magical moment of The Ride outside the Pentagon. Matt was talking to gentlemen with a backpack and was walking in front of me, telling him about The Ride. I read the name on the backpack as "Caliyo." I recalled my company commander from basic training. His name was Captain Caliyo back then to me and the 200+ privates in the Alpha Company 2/19 at Fort Benning that summer of 2002. I recognized him and introduced myself. He immediately asked me to take my glasses off and he made the connection. He recalled my 9/11 tattoo on my leg and our first meeting during a PT test on the first day of basic training. I remember Captain Dennis Caliyo, now Major Caliyo, as a tough and assertive officer. He once told me not to wear socks when I went on road marches so that I would develop blisters that would turn into hard callouses. Then, no more blisters! Frankly, I am not surprised that he remembered me, although it was almost ten years since my class entered Infantry School that summer. My background was unique and I was the peer leader of the class. I am very surprised and humble about how quickly he recognized me and that he remembered the details about our brief encounters. A private didn't interact much with the company commander in basic training at all. It was an emotional chance encounter for both of us and brought back memories each of us had from that period and the war on terror over the past ten years. Thankfully, Brett was able to catch this all on video as I look forward to watching it again and sharing this experience with others. I still can't believe we just ran into each other.
Jesse is watching over us for sure and making this experience the best it can possibly be.
I have written multiple times about the fact that the most memorable moments of The Ride are likely taking place off the bike. Today was no exception. In fact, the events of today will be memorable for the rest of my life.
To the limit,