In the big 50K foot view of everything in our respective lives, the picture is all encompassing. Details are not clear, faces are but a blur. When we get closer to a lower altitude, it’s then that the details start to become more clear and “other” things become important, or more important.
I’ve lived my life in relative success and happiness, of course it’s all subjective as to how one measures success and happiness. I have a great family, I have good health and I’ve been fortunate enough to have great friends. No complaints from this guy for sure. But as I get older and hopfully a wee bit wiser, I’ve come to understand that there is more out there for me to do, for all of us to do. It’s a cumulitive thing for me. Helping a child read a book, holding open a door for a stranger, allowing someone to go in front at the check out counter. Small things but they all add up.
Doing something that matters is the next big thing in my and Tom’s (Witowski) life. We’ll be embarking on an “epic” walk from Colorado to North Carolina. We’re going to see America from a whole different perspective, one step at a time. We’ll hopefully be meeting and greeting Americans from all over. Some people, well actually more than some people, have called us nuts. We’re not in this for ourselves. We certainly are not the first to do this and of course we won’t be the last. We’re both doing this because we feel we’re “Doing Something That Matters.” Honoring our military and their families, hopefully raising awareness about our Greatest Generation, our Wounded Warriors, our Vietnam Vets and our Blue Star famlies and all the while hopefully raising some money for some great foundations.
I hope you all follow us in our daily adventures and if we pass close by, come out and say hello and maybe walk a step or two with us. We’d both love to have ya!
Our journey will start in a few short months so until then, please do something that matters!
Mike a.k.a. Forrest
It’s a freighting, haunting picture.
Sergeant Garrett Ware sits on a hospital gurney in Balad, Iraq. A doctor
removes bandages that cover Garrett’s entire head. He scowls as he inspects the
right side of the warrior’s face, caked with dried blood and torn flesh. “Stop trying to open your eye,” warns thedoctor. “You could damage your cornea.”The doctor’s concern is focused on the bruised eyelid where shrapnel from a mortar explosion is lodged dangerously close to Garrett’s eye.
All Garrett can think about is getting back into the fight. It was his second experience with shrapnel wounds. The first happened at his forward operating base in Karmah City. A mortar round hit the FOB, piercing Garrett’s back with pieces from the blast.
But, at that time during his first deployment, Garrett says he felt invincible. He remembers: “It was beyond irritating that I was safe and being taken care of. I already found out I lost my best friend and several others during the Battle of Fallujah. They gave their lives for their country. I was willing to give mine.”
Garrett’s best friend was Nathan Wood. They joined the Marines together right out of high school, and they both went through boot camp together at Camp Pendleton in California.
After being flown to Germany to receive treatment from eye specialists every day, Garrett was told that Nathan’s mother wanted him to attend Nathan’s funeral. “I wanted to go,” says Garrett, “but it wasn’t an easy task to get approval to come home already. The higher-ups approved, and in the end it all worked out.”
Garrett flew home to Kirkland, Washington for the service. “His was an open casket, so I got to view his body and pay my respects. I spoke at the service, telling those gathered about my good memories of Nathan. He’s my hero. He died doing what he wanted to do. And he brought smiles and laughs to a lot of people.”
Eventually Garrett’s eye healed, and he was sent to his second deployment . . . and ultimately to a third; each time with 3/1 India Company, serving as squad leader providing security as teams searched houses, alleyways, abandoned buildings. They looked for snipers, bombs, high priority targets, and tried to help the community fix problems to make the city a better and safer place to live.
“After my second injury and my third deployment, I started feeling less invincible. You couldn’t help but wonder what the odds are of pushing your luck. I was around explosions every day, and you could almost feel sniper crosshairs on you.”
Those are feelings Garrett continues to deal with to this day, four years after his last deployment.
“I still have back pain and hearing loss from all the explosions,” says Garrett. “And I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We’re human beings. We’re not designed to experience the horrors of combat. I struggle with it from time to time – trouble sleeping, social anxiety, hypervigilance. But warriors like Nathan
suffered a lot more. My alive day is celebrated by remembering Nathan and the
lives and sacrifices so many veterans freely gave.”
Garrett currently attends college at the University of Washington. His major is Law, Societies, and Justice, with a minor in Human Rights. He says it’s his dream to be a part of his hometown’s police department.
“I like the prideful feeling of being a part of an organization that helps people. The more you understand what our warriors give for their country, the more you appreciate unselfish acts of kindness and love – and the more you appreciate where your real strength comes from. Mine is from the encouragement of my family, the support of my wife, and help from God.”
Daniel Lee Beougher was an amazing solider. He joined the Army right out of high school following the 9/11 attacks where he trained in Georgia and was soon stationed in Fayetteville, NC. It was there where he was a part of the 82nd airborne and over his career served one tour in Afghanistan and 2 tours in Iraq. Over his Army career he also served in many other ways. In August 2005, he traveled to Louisiana to help with the aftermath of Katrina and a few months later traveled to New York where he helped train soldiers at West Point. It was here at West point where Danny returned knowing that he wanted to spend his entire career in the Army. He enjoyed so much working with the soldiers at West Point and really wanted to teach. In 2006, before his last deployment to Iraq, he married, and then was deployed for a year and a half shortly after. It was on this deployment to Iraq where Danny was injured by an IED and received his first Purple Heart. Sadly, shortly after his return to the states in 2007, Danny was killed by a Drunk Driver. Danny was an exceptional solider who always put others before himself. He wanted to spend his life serving in the United States Army and he would have been great at it. Daniel Lee Beougher will always be remembered, remembered for being one of the greatest husbands, sons, brothers, soldiers, and friends.
Shane Pease was born in Troy, NC area and joined the US Army August 2006.
After he completed basic training and Airborne school at Ft. Benning, GA, he headed off to be a part of the 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Bragg, NC. He was assigned to the Scout Platoon 3rd BCT 2/505 PIR, who were already 6 months into a deployment in Samara, Iraq. At the time, a certain Scout Platoon soldier got word that they were getting a new Private, and he was hoping to give this new guy (Pease) the benefit of the doubt. For being a Scout was a privilege, for it was an elite, selected group of guys. This soldier took one look at Shane and noticed a machete attached to his gear, and knew he would fit in just fine. With his hard work and dedication Shane was an asset to the Scout Platoon. Upon returning to Ft. Bragg from Iraq, Shane remained in the Scout Platoon, but switched from the Reconnaissance side to the Sniper side and continued to train as a sniper through 2008 to prepare for the upcoming deployment in Dec. 2008. During his second deployment to Iraq, in 2008, Shane was assigned to Alpha Company 3BCT 2/505 PIR where he continued to provide outstanding leadership and loyalty as a Paratrooper. Shane was a country boy, loved hunting, was an avid outdoorsman, and made some mean deer jerky.
On Saturday November 19, 2011, SGT Shane Pease unexpectedly died in Chapel Hill, NC. He was about a week away from finishing up his service with the US Army. Shane will be missed by many. May he Rest in Peace.
Fifth Marine Division, 27th Regiment, 2nd Battalion
At age 18, Jack joined the US Marine Corps and trained to be one of the Carson Raiders whose job was to sneak up to enemy territory using submarines, storming the beach at night in rubber boat, planting dynamite with timed fuses under weapon dumps, vehicles, and other things, then rushing back to the boat with timed fuses. The Carson Raiders were eventually split up into the Fifth Marine Division. On February 19, 1945, Jack stormed the beaches of Iwo Jima in the first wave of attack under a curtain of heavy gunfire. He witnessed a kamikaze plane crash, numerous Amtracs and boats sink, and the horrifying death of many of his close friends. Miraculously, Jack left Iwo Jima unscathed. In March 2012, Jack will return to Iwo Jima for the first time in almost seven decades, sponsored by Denver-based, non-profit organization The Greatest Generations Foundation.