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

The Godfather (Day Sixty-Five)

The phrase ‘performance excellence’ is pretty straightforward, when you think about it. We’d all probably have a common understanding that it’s meant to describe someone doing something at the best of their abilities. To borrow a mantra from the Team Jesse Foundation, it’s about going To the Limit of Our Abilities. Personally, I’ve always been fascinated by those who can push their own limits in this regard and challenge others to do the same. I hope to not ‘over-Mincio’ you with this, but I have to say, as Act II is soon to end and Act III brings a new SAG team…well…BIG shoes to fill. I don’t know how they do it, but they do it well. Performance Excellence. Ron and Karen have been phenomenal in every regard; ‘Mama Bear’ with her relentless, tenacious search for the safest, surest route. She’ll work three different GPS devices at once, and she’s always armed with at least two maps (one an atlas format, one a local style; you won’t find her with some shoddy hotel map). Papa Bear has thought of everything, as usual, and he’s also become quite the photographer, as he’s been asked to fill some gaps while the Media Crew is scrambling to edit footage and return. I could never say enough about how supported one feels when they’re doing their thing. Just ask any of the guest riders, including Denise and Sandy, and they’ll tell you the same. Day Sixty-Six is their final day in the role, and they’ll be missed for sure.

Day Sixty-Five had another way of showing some excellence, to say the least. The course took us through ninety-five miles of winding glory; at first it was sun-filtered back roads that seemed to rise and fall (I say ‘seemed’ because they were flat in contrast to the second half) and exposed hidden pastures, creeks and ponds. There were no pursuit dogs on Day Sixty-Five. Only grazing goats and cattle, with a few spectacular horses. While we saw them, celebrating them, we shot down through a valley that was smooth, long and fast. Pretty sure that when Kevin hit his brakes to slow down, it wasn’t to double-check the map, as he feigned; he just didn’t want this thing to end. I appreciated the hustle on his part with that one! The course would later show us some more challenging features, but not before we saw more performance excellence. The course of Sixty-Five showed us a view of some people who were proud of what they have. They obviously loved their land, and cared for it, meticulously. The trail took us through scene after scene of ranches, farms and homesteads that were everything from modest to stately. Big to small, flat to curve and course to smooth, they shared one thing, the properties of Sixty-Five. Those who dwelled on them valued their qualities, and had taken opportunity to prove it to them every day. We didn’t see anything gaudy or lavish on Sixty-Five; we saw hard work, and evidence of performance excellence in a very basic, yet proud form. When I was a youngster, I sometimes cut lawns and did basic landscaping chores to make money, as did many kids in my neighborhood. Hate to admit it, but I’m not sure I’d have ‘cut the mustard’ with the citizens along Day Sixty-Five. Probably would have not had me back a second time if I’d managed to get an initial gig on their properties! I just didn’t have the eye for detail that their neighborhood landscaping boys clearly have! Sixty-Five had a very scenic, enjoyable course, though I must admit that I spent too much time absorbed in deep thought unrelated to its beauty. The Team Jesse Ride squad is about to jump into the heart of what we’ve set out to do, and my goal is to bring as much performance excellence as we can to the mission. It won’t be difficult to find inspiration; the cause itself is enough to create drive. And, I can say, with an unwavering degree of honesty, that Kevin Mincio has a work ethic that’s unmatched by anyone I’ve ever met. He just doesn’t quit. Ever. He’s an alien, I swear it. So, much of my day was spent looking for answers; funny how that works, though. Sometimes you just get more questions. What I know for sure, though, is that this rare introspective process, especially when framed around something greater than yourself (as in this case) will eventually bring better answers and clearer truths than would have been otherwise discovered. Hope I’m right about that, because I was waaaaay more serious than I like to be on the second half of Sixty-Five. Hate to waste the experience on something that’s unfruitful. When we finished climbing our five-thousand foot, ninety-five mile course, we pulled into our motel. We were very happy to see it. Kevin had a huge grin on his face, and then I realized the reason. His godfather, John Guzas, and his wife Anne had come to see him, and also to drive with Mama Bear and Papa Bear back to Long Island. Lost in my own thoughts, I’d forgotten they were going to be there. I’d heard much about John, and it was great to put another piece together for my own understanding of my friend’s background. Words can’t accurately describe their bond, and they had some mutual idiosyncrasies that were uncanny. It was pretty funny, actually. I liked John immediately, but even more so when, at dinner, I tried to tell him a brief story about his godson; he just sat there, unsurprised. He didn’t humor me with some overly social gesture or even outwardly agree with me for saying the things I’d said. That would have been fake; he already knew about Kevin and how he would have acted. So, while he was very polite and entertaining, he simply showed a very pure form of honesty in his approach. Just like Kevin. Sixty-Six will have around eighty-five miles; not sure of the elevation, but I do know that we’ll climb and descend the Blue Ridge portion of Appalachia. Views galore, for sure. On the other side, Charlottesville awaits.

It’s about to get big, folks. It’s all about the people.

For the Families of the Fallen…To the Limit!

Care Creates Community,

Matt Sauri