Blog written by: Brandon Young; Team RWB Director of Development

I remember them, all of them. Every day. I don’t live for them, I could never do this justice. I cannot hold myself to any expectation worthy of their sacrifice because I could never earn what they willingly gave. Nobody can. Nobody ever could.

We cannot live for them. But we can live.

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” John 15:13 ESV. These words, spoken millennia ago by Jesus of Nazareth are often echoed when we recall the memories of our fallen. When we recount their sacrifices. A powerful statement that projects what they gave, born of love in the purest. The part we routinely forget, though, is the preceding statement delivering the most powerful, actionable and clear sentiment in the very same scripture.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” John 15:12.

I will not live for my fallen brothers, I will live with them. I will love others, as I have been loved. Give an empathetic ear to the hurting, walk with the lost, care for the needy and act for the marginalized. As best I can in my limited capacity. I will not drown myself in alcohol, isolate myself from my family and my community or punish myself for not following them into eternity too soon. How could I remember them so? That is not the love they gave for me. Nor is it the love Jesus displayed in His often-quoted sentiment.

I could never forget them, they are my friends, they are my brothers.

Dave McDowell and his Ranger Buddy, Jake, welcomed me, always. I came home to A Co. 2/75 from Ranger School 155 lbs. soaking wet in 1999. Before my week of rest and recovery, I was required to zero my M240B and qualify, so I met the C Co. maggots in the parking lot at dusk, ready to jump on the trucks and head out. Even though I was an “A Co. guy”, Dave welcomed me with that big smile and I rolled out with new brothers. Years later, he would meet me at the C Co. CQ desk and welcome me, again. I was a new Madslasher, the platoon he grew up in. Open arms, warmly embracing his brother.

He used to laugh, but he used to make us all laugh. When we were Pre-Ranger Cadre together out at Cole Range, he’d zip around on the quad, smiling. A mountain of a man with his little MICH helmet and Oakley’s, we likened him to a circus bear on a tricycle. When I committed to the Best Ranger Competition (BRC), he was there for us. Any range, any training, anything we needed to be successful, that’s the kind of man Dave was. He used to say, “I’m not doing Best Ranger, but you guys are and I’m going to do whatever it takes to help you be successful!” To date, it was the best showing of any 75th Ranger Regiment BRC team, placing 1st, 3rd, 7th, 8th and 9th out of 15 finishing teams. I remember Dave. Man, how we laughed together.

Lance Vogeler was on that very same 2006 75th Ranger Regiment BRC team. He was so upset when he didn’t finish, having sustained an injury during training that forced him to withdraw from the road march. His laughter filled the vans during our months of train up. It never mattered that Lance didn’t finish that year. Lance had the courage to toe the line to begin with. His attempt was a success at its’ onset.

Jay Blessing was an incredibly talented artist. He went to Ranger School, as we all did, and found himself struggling in the Mountains, refusing to ever give up. He finally buckled and they discovered that he had been suffering from pneumonia and a collapsed lung. Back home at Ft. Lewis, Jay recovered slowly under the mentorship of Battalion legend and retired Marine, Mr. Ray Fuller, in the Battalion Arms Room. Jay was exceptional at the task and a sponge. He soaked up every drop of knowledge he could gather from the Legendary Marine and kept the Battalion heavy guns operational.

Jay would not accept defeat and returned to Ranger School, grinding through the suck to reach the “Ranger objective”. His body once again rejected the circumstances, but his resolve rejected failure. Jay limped into graduation with yet another case of pneumonia and lung complications and earned his tab. Mission Complete. He was on his way to the Special Forces Qualification Course when we got alerted for the Winter Strike of 2003. Committed to his brothers, Jay deployed becoming the first casualty of the 2nd Ranger Battalion in the Global War on Terror.

Casey Casavant was hysterical. The man with a smile and personality as large as the Big Sky of his home Montana was incapable of a straight face. He was full of belly laughs and cheer. You could always pick out Casey on an airfield or any other objective. He was the one with a 1-Liter bottle of Mountain Dew in his hand. He used to stuff at least two or three into his assault pack or ruck. When Casey and I attended the Primary Leadership Development Course (NCO Education System 1) with our Ranger Buddies, we felt like strangers in a strange land.

The cadre determined that the Rangers needed to allow our fellow “soon to be Sergeants” the opportunity to lead in the field, un-hindered by our experience or personalities. This was a good call. The solution was each of us “Batt. Boys” would serve as the Radio Telephone Operator (RTO) for every platoon in the field for the whole training exercise. This was a bad call. I cannot recall the specifics of the hilarity that ensued each night, but of one thing I am certain: the evenings full of Batt. Boy Radio hour, verbally thrashing each other and our fellow students and hitting pre-determined bump frequencies so as not to be detected by our instructors, was definitely Casey’s idea! I can hear him laughing from the other side of the Company bivouac now.

James Nehl was simply one of my heroes. When I arrived at the Blacksheep, he was the 1st Squad Leader and I was a Maggot under the leadership of his brother-in-law, Daryl. I was always at a slight distance, but James was quiet and strong; the kind of silent confidence that made you want to be better and win his respect. Growing up 3 squads down the hallways I always took notice to James because he was confident, intentional and innovative.

His squad always seemed to be doing something different, trying something new. In hindsight he struck me as a bit shy, but when he laughed, his smile would light up his face and quickly enlist the entire room in the joke. After becoming a young Ranger Leader, my M240B team was attached to James squad, “The Deer Hunters” and I couldn’t have been more elated. Being let into his circle was an honor. I forever wanted to make him proud.

Kris Domeij was one of the most confident young Rangers I had the pleasure to serve with. As his Squad Leader in charge of the maneuver section he was attached to at the beginning of the war he was always technically and tactically proficient. A Forward Observer to be counted on regardless of the circumstance, but more than this, one of the boys regardless of his youth in rank. You couldn’t dislike Kris, he was awesome. During our first deployment, I recall a long patrol in the Lwara Dasta, which left the section completely out of water and burning up in the heat of the dessert. The conditions were so bad that one of our Rangers had to be extracted due to severe heat casualty.

Kris would finish the mission. I looked over during a halt to see him finishing off the last drops of his saline I.V. bag. He looked over at me with that rueful smile and big cheeks and merely offered, “I was thirsty, Sergeant”.

“Domeij, you know you just basically downed a canteen of salt water, right?”

His shoulders shrugged off the matter. I shook my head and we moved on. Sometime later, Kris approached me and said, “Uh, can I have a sip of your water, Sergeant, my mouth is like a dry salt lick!?” Later that mission in a hide site, Kris asked me if he could take off his boots to cool down his feet. “Charlie is doing it…” Our Air Force Enlisted Tactical Air Controller (ETAC). I always see Kris and Charlie in that site together, two larger than life personalities and a combined force to be reckoned with. Exceptional. So talented.

Josh Wheeler had another smile that could light up the darkness. We met during Advance Special Operations Training course held by the Battalion. All of the Squad Leaders from the Battalion rallied for two weeks during one of the most memorable and constructive training session I experienced in the Army. We were, essentially, unleashed in small teams of SSG’s across a myriad of missions. Josh was so humble, so curious. He didn’t care what company anyone was from, he only cared about being better. I admired him so much.

Brian Bradshaw was so similar. I met this young man as his Platoon Instructor during Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course (IBOLC) at Ft. Benning in 2008. IBOLC is a 13-week cycle to prepare newly commissioned Lieutenants to serve as Platoon Leaders in the Army. Each of my 40-man platoon would leave at the end of our cycle, go to Ranger School and then immediately deploy to combat in Iraq or Afghanistan. I cannot imagine how this must have felt. Brian was sharp, quick and intelligent. He cracked me up with his silly throwback Oakley Razors that I was certain were created before even he was.

My time with these young men was a capstone to my military service and one of the most special experiences I had in the Army. Amongst a platoon of focused, young leaders, Brian was always one of the platoon mates who would tarry the longest, ask the last questions, gather the last pearls of wisdom from my training partner, Bryan Hart, and me. Only Brian would crack that last joke to cut the atmosphere. He would exhaust me with questions and I loved every minute of it. I just loved that guy.

Love brings us back. Back to the start, back to today. The smiles we see in the dark. The little chuckles and moments we carry to the end. More names pour out in the silence for me: Damian Ficek, Steve Langmack, Ed Homeyer, Ricardo Barrazza. Men I served with and respected. These names, these people and the thousands of others that will not be lost on my heart.

Today is Memorial Day. A Day to remember and for those of us able, a day to live. Perhaps a day to hike with the family, visit with our neighbors, reconnect with old buddies and remember. Hopefully, we remember with a smile, but I respect that some may do so with the bitter sting of a loss on such a deeply personal level that Gold Star Mother, Scoti Domeij captures in “Dreading Memorial Day”. I simply cannot imagine the loss of a child or a spouse. I also respect that Memorial Day may hold a completely different kind of sting to those who bare the pain of such traumatic loss experienced before their very eyes. Memories of loss seen under violent circumstances.

My heart is with you. Truly.

Wherever you are today, however you remember, please do not remember alone. Call a friend, call your family or a neighbor. Draw close to someone who loves you, please. If you feel the weight of your loss today in such a way that is so heavy, so profound that it chokes out the love that our brothers and sisters displayed in their sacrifice, please call one of the resources below.

Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1

TAPS: 1-800-959-8277

“One for the Airborne Ranger in the Sky”

Read more on the Havok Journal.

Blog written by: Casey McCabe

Three years ago, I was lost.

I had been through a really rough patch in life, and I was struggling. I had anxiety, I was hurting, grieving and scared. I missed the military. I missed the Army. I felt so alone. I had to pick up the pieces, and put my life back together.

I am a victim of Domestic Violence. I hate the word ‘victim’. I already felt ashamed and embarrassed, and then I was given a label. Running soon became a building block to getting my life back on track. My former husband instilled fear in me so that I was afraid to speak up. He used threats and intimidation to scare and control me. He made me feel like I could not make decisions for myself, because he constantly criticized and insulted me. My ex-husband threatened and bullied me, and he treated our son the same way. He humiliated me in front of family and friends. He made me afraid to disagree with him, afraid to speak up or and stand up for myself. He frequently put me down, made me feel inadequate, a failure. He withheld money for food and other basic needs. I starved myself, so I could provide milk and diapers for my son. My ex-husband withheld love and affection for our son and I. He made all decisions for me, including financial. He restricted and controlled where I went, who I talked to, who I could see. He isolated me from family members and friends, and would not allow me to contact them. He caused me to fear my safety in many ways.

When I initially left my ex-husband, I had $0.00 to my name and I was homeless. I stayed in a woman’s shelter. I had my son with me, and I was scared. My son was only 15 months old at the time. Being in the shelter, with other women, made me realize I am not alone. There are many people who are suffering.

In early 2014, I joined Team RWB, an organization that helps military veterans transition back to civilian life through physical and social activities. My first Team RWB running event was life changing, and I came back weekly, over and over again. I remember the very first day I showed up to my first Team RWB event I was shaking because I was so nervous and anxious. It was my first baby step in creating a new life for myself, and my son. Running soon became my outlet. My outlet for stress, anxiety, fear, and so much more. It is incredible, the positive impact Team RWB has on people’s lives. We all come from different walks of life, but together, we are united as one. I love the feeling of being a part of something bigger than myself. Team RWB is changing people’s lives, it is a movement, a community, and it is growing every day. I am thankful for the support Team RWB has provided for me.

My ex-husband left me with thousands of dollars of debt. I am now debt free. I work full time, I am in school full time and I am a mom. I wear many different hats. I now have the courage to take baby steps. Something as simple as getting out of bed, making my bed, brushing my teeth. Little improvements every day, while bringing balance to life. I will graduate with my Bachelor’s Degree in 2017. I applied for, and received, a promotion at work. I have completed my first half marathon.

I want to be an advocate for others. I want to be the voice, and show people that it’s okay to feel broken. The important thing is to not give up, life goes on. I realize now I can accomplish anything. I have come a long way from being the girl who was afraid of everything and everyone.

You can’t change the past, but you can come to terms with it. It’s not easy. There may be something you wish you’d done differently. Everyone has regrets. If we stop focusing so much on what we didn’t do, we have the chance to explore what we did do. Revel in what you’ve achieved, and let go of what didn’t work out as you hoped. When you clear the air of regretful hindsight, you’ll also clear the path ahead – which can lead to something wonderful.

Grief looks different on everyone. It isn’t just death we grieve, its life. It’s loss. It’s change. We have to remember life is about change. That’s how you stay alive. I woke up one day, and I realized I didn’t want to play the victim anymore. I knew I had to forgive my ex-husband, and that definitely wasn’t easy. Once I forgave him, I realized I could start working on bettering myself. Tragedies can strengthen a person or destroy them. What matters is how the person responds, what they do with the life they have in front of them.

Sometimes you have to battle with yourself to do something new, and the trauma I experienced is helping me win that battle. I now have more self-confidence. It’s a newfound, everyday kind of confidence that comes with that sense of achievement you get by doing something positive. My son is my motivation to always improve and to be a good example. He is my driving force for being successful.

I will not let the word Victim define me anymore.

Blog written by: Chrissy Mott

I’m really just a walking Team RWB billboard at races and when I travel.  I don’t get to a ton of chapter events here locally, but when I do, I love the people I meet.  I go to things when I can (Sky Sox baseball summer socials are the best!) because I love the mission of this organization.

I will always wear the Eagle because it was my first lifeline.  I was a little bit lost and a whole lot changed when I came home from my last deployment.  I didn’t really know it then, but I needed some kind of connection to fight the demons that followed me to my home station in Japan.  I was a single officer in a tough career field in a tough assignment, after a less-than-stellar deployment, living off base by myself in a country that I didn’t know very well.  I wasn’t sure my family would understand from 3,000 miles away or if my supervisors would recognize the mental and emotional toll of the challenges I faced on that deployment (I had been an individual augmentee for another branch, working well outside of my specialty and skillset), so I just threw myself back into work on the flightline.  I can’t remember how I found Team RWB, but I think it was a national news article or maybe a friend’s Facebook page.  I just wanted to talk to someone who understood and would tell me that eventually everything would be ok….a bridge back to the normal world.  I “met” Lou and Caroline via email when I ordered a shirt and signed up on the triathlon list, and it was love at first mission statement.  It motivated me to get back on my bike, drink a bit less, and join our base running group, where I made a few connections that allowed me to at least maintain a façade of “ok”..for a while.

I PCS’d back stateside in 2013.  I met some folks from my new Team RWB chapter and started to settle in a bit, but soon enough my demons came out to play, and I hit rock bottom with work, family, and relationships.  I joined a few other veteran organizations during this period and finally sought some behavioral health help, but I kept thinking of Team RWB as the organization that helped me to reconnect with the real world.  You see, Team RWB is basically the cool dad of service organizations, who wants everyone to be included and have fun while still being responsible and focused on improving lives and communities.

I find that including civilians and veterans in one organization to shrink the gap between two supposedly different groups is a fantastic idea.  We’re not so different as people, we just have different experiences.  I’ve met so many outstanding Americans, both military and civilian, here in Team RWB.  Allowing civilian and veteran alike to work together at volunteer events, races, whatever, and including movement is absolutely critical to the success of this organization.  Playing outside keeps us healthy and happy – research says so!  (The combined COS-DEN chapter snowshoeing event last winter is still pretty much my favorite event ever!)

boulder-sunset

In Team RWB, everyone is included and welcome to do whatever is best for them as an individual while still maintaining a supportive Team mentality.  And it all comes down, for me, to the Positivity.  The very specific focus on positivity is something that is hard to find in many other groups.  All of the veteran service organizations I know do fantastic work, but Team RWB has my heart for the positivity alone.  My favorite example of Team RWB Positivity in action is Eagle cheerleaders.  I’m always excited to see teammates on a race course and meet new friends at packet pickup, but my vote for Time Magazine Person (or People) of the Year is the flock (technically a convocation) of Eagles cheering along the course at Ironman Maryland.  So many fantastic Eagles just pouring their positivity on me!  An old Navy buddy and fellow Eagle from DC chapter was my host and Sherpa for the race, and since she wasn’t racing, so she worked at bike special needs all day and then rocked her RWB gear out on the run course to cheer us on through the rain.  I didn’t even know most of them, but we were all wearing the same logo.  A few guys from the Philly chapter stood out there and cheered for us the entire day.  I noticed the same dude in the same spot on every lap, standing in the flooded streets to yell like crazy and send out good vibes every time we passed that corner.  At one point near the end of my race, he saw me struggling on the run, and just ran right out on the course and gave me the biggest, best bear hug and told me I could do it.

That race is Team RWB in a nutshell for me.  And to hear “Voice of Ironman” Mike Reilly recognize the organization as I crossed the finish line with a small flag in hand (given to me by a race volunteer and, I suspect, fellow Eagle) was just about the icing on the cake.  But the best part?  You find that same level of energy and support no matter where you go or what sport you do.

While many other organizations and many people played a role in getting me through some really bad days, Team RWB has been that old, reliable constant for me.  There are veterans who understand my struggles, and awesome civilians who want to hang out with us and rebuild those community ties.  Even if I don’t get to many chapter functions, I am still part of a Team.  I know I have Eagles who will be there for me whatever happens.

I’m proud to be an Eagle, and a walking/running/biking/skiing billboard for a fantastic mission.

Blog written by: Amanda Charney 

I have been fortunate in my life to travel the globe and live and work in several countries that others will never get to see. Throughout my travels, I never really considered how grateful I was to always get to come home and live as a free American. What reminded me of this?  Lady Liberty, herself.

To me, that woman holding the flame, coming into America’s favorite city, resembles strength, peace, love, and freedom for all.  She’s holding a book of wisdom and carrying knowledge to help guide her.  She moves without fear because she carries light, she carries the world, and she lights our path when we are in fear and darkness. Most importantly, she represents Hope. She is indestructible. After the tragedy that hit our nation on September 11, America looked up to her for Hope.  For me, as a woman trying to make it in this world, I personally look up to her for guidance and Hope for my own future in America.

As I watched the Carry Light video from ALEX AND ANI for the first time, I saw the faces and reactions of people coming to America, and seeing the light for their future. As the one woman kept saying, “America is Golden…” In the current times of watching news of poverty, disgrace to our flag and our officers, tragedy upon tragedy, Lady Liberty continually delivers Hope. In that video, I loved hearing how when you start from the bottom of Lady Liberty, she is moving forward, she broke through her chains,  she is looking up to the heavens and taking the steps to move forward.

There was a time, I was upset with Old Glory.  I still remember when it was placed in my arms in a way I would have never wanted, nor wished on anyone else. Looking down in their lap so nicely folded, I lost all Hope. I held the flag so tight when it was given to me, and then would just stare at it when I was home alone thinking, “Why?”  “How?”  But then… Hope came back again.

When I bought my house several years ago, Old Glory was the first thing I hung outside of my front door. She continues freely blowing proudly, high in the air. She reminds me that just like Lady Liberty, I had to move forward and change tragedy into Hope for myself, my family, and for children all across our country helping to give them a voice.

 

I love my country, I love my flag, and I love my Lady Liberty!  Getting together with family from Team RWB either in my city or traveling for races out of state, it is an instant bond of community and we just smile. That smile alone, of a stranger wearing the Eagle, is a smile of light and Hope that I am so proud to be apart of.

I love being an American with my whole being, and every summer when I come back to the states it does something to my core just knowing that I am home.

Blog written by: Stephanie “Momma” Stump and Joe Stump

Words in bolded italics were written by Stephanie “Momma” Stump in October of 2015, after the first ever Team RWB GORUCK Camp before she passed. Joe Stump, her son, wrote the non-bolded regular text after the 2016 Team RWB GORUCK Camp. He did not know his mother had written anything before he wrote his.

I am Stephanie Stump a/k/a Momma Stump, I live and work as a Head Start Family Service Worker in Waskom, Texas. I have one son who is 34 years old and he has served in the USMC and one grandson who is 12 years old. I was never athlete in my younger years in fact, I ran my first 5K at the age of 56, did my first of many 12 hour GORUCK Challenges at age 57 and did my first ½ marathon at age 58. I don’t consider myself fast or strong but I am at least being active and I love it. I learned about Team RWB from a GORUCK friend and heard about the flag runs, which I thought was pretty awesome.

I recently had the opportunity to attend the national Team RWB/Goruck Camp in Jacksonville Florida. I was contacted by the local Chapter Captain and he informed me that my mother Stephanie Stump aka “Momma Stump” was to be honored at the event, as she was a very active Eagle and had recently passed away in June. The camp was phenomenal but before I get into my experience there I’d like to give a short background on Momma Stump.

I didn’t realize how vets (and their families) are impacted by service and conflict until my only child was in Iraq with his USMC unit back in 2004. I cried a lot from the unknown and because I hardly ever heard from him, he was always on the move due to being 0331 (machine gunner). I would hear from him every 4-6 weeks if I was lucky in the middle of the night. I remember it was the end of October, first of November of 2004 and he called me – of course I fussed at him for not calling me more often and he kept telling me that he couldn’t due to never bring in one place. I asked where he was and what he was doing and he replied, “I can’t tell you any of that so don’t ask.” I remember him saying “just watch the news mom.” I didn’t know what that meant and it worried me. I did what he said daily and around the 8th of November it was big new, Marines invade Fallujah a/k/a Operation Phantom Fury. The U.S. Military called it “some of the heaviest urban combat Marines and Army infantry soldiers have been involved in since Vietnam.” He does not talk about it, but I will always remember that time in my life and am so blessed he returned from that chapter in his life.

As long as I can remember she was extremely physically active walking, running, bicycling, rucking and would faithfully do one or the other every single morning regardless of the weather, she seemed to have the energy of 3 men. In 2014 she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, and as one may imagine she took it rather hard. All the uncomfortable feelings that are associated with that news flooded our lives, but we talked about it,we attended doctor visits,  and we met with outside sources gaining all the insight we could to what would be the best plan. She decided to have surgery, do chemotherapy, radiation and fight like hell. And that is what she did-knowing that none of those tasks would be easy. Several months after her diagnosis she was receiving her second chemo treatment and her house burned to the ground. Now she is dealing with all the uncomfortable emotions that come with the reality of instantly becoming homeless as well. She immediately moved in with me and the outpouring of support she received was unbelievable, within hours she had necessities to get by. While staying with me she began to get adjusted and continued her treatment plan. As the treatments became less harsh she became as active as she was before her diagnosis, she was running every morning at 6am, running 5k’s every weekend, traveling to do half marathons. It was during this time she joined Team RWB. She became consumed with the group they were her family and it was really wonderful to see her get enjoyment out of participating in all the various activities the team offered or helped with.

I joined Team RWB the first part 2014 and was starting to get more involved than just flag runs through volunteering for water stops, holiday activities and was asked if I would be willing to start taking photos of our Chapter events when I could.  I was excited to be a part of this new organization since I have always been involved in volunteering all my life.

I received a call on July 1, 2014 that changed my life, I had breast cancer.  It was devastating, not me I was the one who fought for a cure for family and took care of myself.  So in August I had breast surgery, September 9, 2014 I started chemotherapy and just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse it did. October 22, 2014 as I was at the cancer center receiving chemo I learned my house had burned to the ground and nothing was left. I was taken from the cancer center to see my home smoldering, nothing was saved, I only had the clothes on my back and my house was not insured.  I wanted to give up since I had cancer, I was bald, I was sick and now I was homeless.  I moved in with my son who lives in Louisiana which was still in driving distance to work. 

In October 2015 she was given the opportunity to attend the national Team RWB/Goruck Camp, it was the highlight of her recent years she came home and talked about how great of a time it was and that she was even more motivated to be active and help others be active. She started doing even more races and events and she must have had 25 Team RWB shirts because that’s all she wore.

I was very fortunate to be invited to attend the first GORUCK/Team RWB Ruck Camp in Jacksonville, FL at GORUCK headquarters. I will admit I did not feel worthy of attending since I know there are so many other Team RWB volunteers who deserved this opportunity more than I, but I have a passion for both Team RWB and GORUCK which I was more active in both prior to my diagnosis. Spending the weekend with the best of the best in both Team RWB & GORUCK and learning so much, I feel rejuvenated.  I also feel I can make an impact on helping veterans get involved in some physical type activities, since I know first-hand how it has helped me get through my journey of hell. I got to see some old friends and meet some new ones and feel it was an honor to be involved in this event. Lastly, I was given a Team RWB Challenge Coin during our closing which meant the world to me and had me pretty choked up. Special thanks to those that made it happen for me and those that made it special for me.

Around February 2016 she started to have abdominal pains and she thought it was something that she could just take over the counter medicine for, but it persisted. She eventually went to see the doctors in March and they informed her she now had gastric cancer as well as breast cancer and it had spread throughout her entire body. She wanted to fight like hell, so she did. She stayed well over two month in the hospital taking some of the most aggressive treatment they could give her and she continued to fight. The doctors told her she should try to walk around the hospital so we did, she shuffled up and down every floor dragging her IV pole, the doctors told her to try to eat, she would try everyday knowing it wouldn’t stay down, but she tried. Eventually scans showed that there was nothing more to be done and she came home to be at peace. She was home for 8 days and when doctors had given up and honestly I had too, she continued to fight like hell. I was by her side to the very end and I can honestly say she fought until there was no more fight in her being.

On September 8, 2015 I completed my last chemo treatment (365 days of treatments) and am currently in remission.  What Team RWB and my GORUCK community did for me was more than any medication or treatment did for me.  Their support gave me strength and they were not giving up on me so I better not give up myself.  I am back to running 5 miles every day before work and am proud to say I will be turning 60 in mid-November.

Besides the fact that my mother just would not give up one of the things I took away from this whole experience was that her Chapter Captain James came to visit her every day. I was there every day but this is my mother. This man came everyday to see someone he had no connection with aside from Team RWB. People have busy lives and plenty of things to do; visiting someone in the hospital for well over two months is not a real attractive thing to do. But he did and that speaks volumes about the man and the organization. I would come to find out, there are so many more Eagles just like him. And that is absolutely wonderful to know.

Shortly after her services I planned out her headstone, she wasn’t extravagant so I didn’t feel her memorial should be, the front has her information and a set of running shoes engraved and a small vase with a photo of her before her treatments with her long hair and it says “MOMMA STUMP”. The back is simply an etched picture of her in a Team RWB shirt and a headband smiling from ear to ear, that picture was taken at the 2015 Team RWB/Goruck Camp as she was participating in a team event. I chose that picture because she was so happy, so thrilled to be part of that group and that organization I wanted to immortalize that moment and her spirit forever.

momma-stump-headstone

I would come to find out one year after that picture was taken why she was smiling ear to ear and talked about the camp constantly. When I arrived at the camp I didn’t know anyone but I thought if these Eagles are anything like the James this would be a good time. Well I was wrong, it was a great time. The very first exercise was to go around the room and share “Why Do You Wear the Eagle?” My honest initial thoughts were an internal eye roll and oh boy here we go. But as Eagles started to speak I was enthralled. I didn’t even want to speak just listen; some of the group’s stories were just incredible and so impactful. That was just a precursor to an unbelievable weekend of leadership training, more laughs that you can imagine and hearing from some true warriors, both war fighters and civilians. I have done several Goruck events but none of them come close to the experience I was given the opportunity to share with awesome people. When I received my schedule of events for the camp I noticed one of the last things was the presentation of the Momma Stump award. I wasn’t exactly sure what it was but I was extremely honored that there would be a tribute to my mom in the way of an award. So as the ending came near I was excited for the presentation, maybe more so than anything for my mother’s story to be told. As the speaker began, he explained that the award wasn’t necessarily given to the person that was the most athletic or anything of that nature but as the award reads “To the person to exemplifies Momma Stump’s indomitable spirit and drive.” Someone who lives the never give up life and lives it for others. As he is presenting it I’m so very appreciative that this is even happening and I’m very excited for whoever will receive it; and then he calls my name It was simply an honor for the award to exist but to be the recipient of it is something I can’t express, I will forever be thankful for the Team RWB for all they have done to help my mother and I in hard dark times. My mother’s story is not unique, I’m sure everyone knows somebody going through terribly hard times regardless of the details. I hope someone can take something away from our story and make their life better or help make someone else’s life better.