My military service is very far in my rear view mirror. I know my story and, more importantly, what it means to me. Since my time in the service, I’ve heard, befriended and in a small fashion been a part of many other veteran’s stories. Men and women who have sacrificed a great deal more while in uniform then I can even imagine, but all experiences I know are reality.
I owe so much to this group of people and I’m lucky to maintain a connection to them. My personal cost did not add up to much and I’m fully aware of how fortunate that is. It’s part of why I never feel any need to be thanked – my time in the military was really good to and for me.
Saying “thank you” feels more right to me. Thank you to all those who have had so much taken from them while serving under the very same colors as I did. I live my life for you and I will continue to do the best I can.
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.
Last night I did a show at a cabin in the woods for 14 Purple Heart recipients who were on a weekend hunting retreat. I feel like I’ve done pretty much every kind of show, but this was my very first just standing in a living room next to a warm fireplace while a group of burly dudes in camo spread out rounds of ammo as they sat at a kitchen table or living room chairs.
As a performer I’d say the “conditions” were not the best. Ha. As a person I was truly inspired by my audience. They could not have been cooler to some guy (me) who showed up, stood up and started talking. Trust me they’d much rather had a stripper and I completely agreed she’d have been a more welcomed performance. But good luck getting a woman to drive over an hour into a mountain to meet a bunch of dudes in a cabin… even I was getting a Deliverance vibe by the tail end of my travels.
I’ve noticed over the years that the performances that mean the most to me are the ones that have me really thinking on my way home. The ones that stay with me, make me ponder, and possibly help me grow somehow. Last night I witnessed a group of men bust their asses to take care of a group of men who’d risk their asses with consequence. The hosts were determined to make sure these guys were having a great time. The guys themselves all smiled, laughed, gave each other and myself sh*t while being polite, fun and thankful. That doesn’t happen everyday.
I say this often: The world I see presented in front of me on/in the news or social media is not the one I experience. It’s a pity that anger and harsh opinions are more likely to infect our society’s information cycle than to create inspiration and thoughtfulness. Because my drive home last night was filled with the latter and it’s one I won’t forget for all the right reasons.
Thank you, gentlemen.