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

Mama I am coming home (Day Ninety-Two)

For some reason, the sun ‘wanted it’ a little more than the weather report had predicted. There were no complaints from us, and we were all teeth as we crossed the border into our final state, New York. The sun came through in a filtered fashion, and we were given the gift of it making a gradual appearance. As the clouds broke apart and offered bits of clear blue, our optimism followed suit and we all had to agree that the conditions were ideal. When the sun finally showed in full fashion, it was glorious. After the previous few days, it felt like we were on a different planet. Shady patches of road had sharp contrast from those stretches that lie unobstructed. Sometimes the great thing about having harsh, unfriendly weather is that peaceful glow that follows. We took full advantage of the opportunity to enjoy it, to soak it all in, and to allow it to be part of us. Also, it was nice to not be shivering and soaking wet. Due to our ability to keep on schedule (against the predictions of many), we have worked our way into a position to take a different angle as we enter the city on 9/11. Our path will take us to West Point, home of the United States Military Academy. We’ve got some great appearances planned there, and it’s a great highlight for both Kevin and me. Having grown up in Annapolis, though, I predict I’ll have a hard time with the “Go Army, Beat Navy’ talk. Seems backwards to even write it down! Another upside of the opportunity to see West Point is the terrain. It was a gorgeous ride, as the roads leading into the area were hilly and, in some places, almost mountainous. Kevin and I really enjoyed the opportunity to climb some steep hills and we went at it with no reserve or hesitation. We pedaled up and around Bear Mountain on our approach, and the first signs of fall were everywhere. Coming back to the East Coast reminds me of why the season referred to as autumn. The smell of the air is probably one of my favorite parts, as it carries a crispness that is pretty far removed from the mugginess that comes just before it. While we still had some humidity in the air, it was on the way out and will soon be replaced by the ironically fresh smell of dying leaves and season’s change. Both Kevin and Mark Larson had spent significant time here as youngsters, and I kept quiet and tried to allow them the opportunity to ingest their surroundings and take the trip down memory lane, nearly literally. Most of the conversations that took place were about their childhood memories, and both of them separately told me about skiing there (long ago there had been a small resort on Bear Mountain) Both of them were sentimental about seeing the Henry Hudson River, it’s banks softened by Irene and the heavy rains that followed her. She was very muddy and almost red from the past few days. But, there she was, iconic and strong. Day Ninety Two was the last day that we’d enjoy the company of a guest rider; going forward for the last two days it’ll just be Mince and me. I can’t think of anyone who would be more stable and valuable than Mark for this part of the journey. He’s in tune with the mission and understands the big picture with things, and he’s a class act all the way around. Having Mark and his lovely wife Virginia along for this stage has been a blessing. Mainly, I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to share the experience with him. I’ve always looked at The Ride as an opportunity to create opportunity for others; if that’s true, then it’s also true that opportunity can be better propagated when in the hands of the capable. Deputize the capable, I always say, and who better to deputize than the Chief Deputy Prosecutor? Mark is a man of action, so giving him a bird’s eye view of what we’re up to as well as the experience to have lived the struggle, even for a few days, will prove helpful to our cause and to the Families of the Fallen. In Mark Larson, I’ve got a new person to admire and appreciate, and that just doesn’t happen every day. As we pulled toward a final SAG stop and a chance to reunite with some special people, I was shown five birds of prey circling. It was almost like I was gifted these and allowed to show them to Mark. It just felt right. We turned the corner, and there he was, poised in his iconic photographic action stance. Papa Bear was there, standing tall (well, not that tall because he’s not so tall, plus he sorta squats when he shoots the camera, but he was doing it proudly, which is sorta like standing tall). It was beyond surreal to see him as well as Mama Bear, who had come down to see us into the area. It was a joy to see them, and it was as if no time had passed at all. They met Messick and thanked him for his driving style, and unreported incidents have occurred that lead many of us to believe he’s saved our lives a few times. Adam replied that he’d never be able to prepare the food the way that they had, and I imagined what it would be like to have both crews. We’d be soooo spoiled!

Our next few days will be the culmination of nearly a year of work and preparation. It’s all happening so fast and we’ve been through a lot. As the excitement of all of it comes in like a tremendous and fearful force of nature, we pause and realize that we’ve been there before. We’ve gotten thought the storms, hills and heat, and for that reason we’ll remain poised and execute with intention during this last measure. For opportunity and with commitment.

For the Families of the Fallen…To the Limit!

Care Creates Community,

Matt Sauri