The All Warrior Network created a short documentary about U.S. Army Veteran and now comedian Justin Wood’s inspirational story. I got to play a small part in his journey. Our friendship and Veteran loyalty is captured extremely well. It’s a positive, funny & heartfelt story. You can’t ask for much more than that. Enjoy!
A couple weeks ago, I was part of my very first adventure race. Running, hiking, mountain biking, white water rafting, climbing, zip lining, rappelling… well, you pretty much name it and it was along the way. Even slingshots and blow darts!
Saturday, we started our journey by traveling 22 miles. Sunday morning, we added another 6 miles. What was amazing about this weekend was not the physical journey, for me, it was the incredible personal shift. As physically demanding as the racecourse was, it paled in comparison to the impact my fellow racers have left on me.
Here is the simple truth: I really cannot put into words this experience. I will be here for days writing and never do it justice. There are few things in this world that bring that feeling of change, appreciation, wonder and lifetime linger. If I live another 40 years, there will be no doubt I will speak about, share and reference Adventure TEAM Challenge often.
My life has always been about chasing moments. My life is moved by tangible experience, something I can feel with every sense this body can provide me. That is how I remember, how I change for the better, and how I can share a story, lesson or joke. I have to really feel it.
I spent the weekend camping right next to the Colorado River. During the day I could feel the sun beat down on my back and at night I would shiver, staring at every star so prominent in the cold sky. Surrounded by mountains and the freshest air I’ve felt in ages, the setting was spectacular.
There were ten teams made up of 5 individuals: three able bodied and two disabled, one being in a wheelchair. Disabled is a word that should be removed from the description of the event. These athletes came from all corners of the country with so many different compelling stories, but the one quality everyone had is being able. It was their “disabled” teammates who had the biggest impact on the able-bodied participants and volunteers.
I haven’t spent a lot of time with those who would be considered disabled, but after this weekend, I won’t be able to view the power of the human sprit the same. As exhausted, beaten and cut up as my body was, my mind and heart were being bombarded with inspiration, laughter and new friendships.
My team was made up of four Marines and me. When we were introduced, they said we were all wounded. Pointing at each individually… shot… shot… blown up… then at me… I uttered… emotionally. Solid laugh. I come across people who pretend to be more than the sum of what they are. I live and work in show business so it’s almost a prerequisite. I’m horrible at networking because I hate surface talk. There was no surface talk. These men know exactly who they are, what happened to them, and make no qualms about it. The tip of their pinky finger has been through more fight, pain and recovery than most anyone I know. I often say I get to walk in the shadow of heroes. This weekend I got to team up with them, sweat, bleed, freeze, laugh, eat, sleep, and mostly listen.
Be it the oath I made in my youth or the fact that it’s just where I feel most comfortable, I seem to always gravitate towards people who were in the military. People came from all sorts of backgrounds and lifestyles for this weekend, which was so much more than that. There were no cell phones, Internet or distractions of any kind, just the challenge, the stories, and the individuals fully living a life bigger than themselves. The real stars of the weekend were on the ground. It was the great people that put so much work into making something like Adventure Team Challenge happen and setting up this experience full of moments that change your life forever.
Recently I’ve noticed a great deal more anger online. I myself feel angry about many things that are going on in the world, so I decided to share a little something about myself in honor of the holidays and inspired by someone I love and respect.
I had lunch with my sister, wee cute niece, father, aunt and uncle the other day. The same uncle who fought back from the brink of death. Between many great conversations and laughs, my aunt said to me, “your cousin Jack wants to know why you never wear a NY Yankees hat while you are touring.” This question made complete sense to me as a born and raised New Yorker who, like my cousin, has been a Yankees fan since birth. I do wear a ball-cap quite frequently. Rarely on stage because I feel it can block out light on my face and I still have hair…even though it’s grey, it’s still there! On most occasions the second I get off stage the cap goes on, when traveling the cap goes on, and I do have my reasons for the ball-cap I choose.
I wear a few variations of an Orange Syracuse trucker hat. I never went to Syracuse University or lived in Syracuse, NY. All three of my sisters lived there at some point. One of my brother-in-laws got his law degree there and met my sister while she lived there. My other two brother-in-laws grew up there. I have been to countless games, holidays, parades, and festivals in Syracuse. Three of my nieces are being raised there. All four of my nephews, despite being raised in Connecticut, bleed Orange. There is not a member of my family that can get away with a Syracuse-attire-free Christmas. I’ve never shared this part (because I have no judgment for those who drink) but… my very last drink happen to be a pint of Guinness with my brother-in-law and sister after a Syracuse game at Madison Square Garden. We sat in a restaurant eating dinner and having drinks. At one point I looked around at the table and realized I could not be happier. It’s a great realization, to be happy and in the moment. I’m not always. But there was still something I disliked about myself. Then I took a gaze at my pint of Guinness and heard a voice in my head say “this is a fine way to end this part of my life… this will be my last pint.” No announcement, statement, declaration or program. That was 8 or 9 years ago. I don’t think my brother-in-law or sister even know any of this history of my not drinking. But it’s not the city, games, not drinking or school, it’s family. When I see the color orange (Syracuse), I think of my family.
I told my aunt I wear a Syracuse hat because I’m away from my family a great deal. Comedians travel for a living. That’s part of the job and it can get lonely out there. I wear the hat because it makes me feel close to my family when I’m not, think of them from afar, and always keeping them with me. Also orange is the color of optimism. My aunts reply… “Well, that’s actually very nice,” then she laughed.
May your own family provide as much happiness, care, strength and guidance inside of you this holiday season and many more to come.