A little about SSG Justin ‘Dutch’ Estes. He was my second child, arriving 22 months to the day after his big sister, Kelli. He was very tall, even as a youngster, standing a head taller than Kelli’s classmates when she was in kindergarten. He wasn’t the best student and was easily bored with school. He excelled in sports and at 6’3”; he was the center of his basketball team in high school. He was very quick witted, loved to laugh, loved music and movies. After joining the Army, he grew another two inches to his full height of 6’5”. He was someone you could easily spot in a crowd.
He wanted to join the military already when he was in high school. He was always interested in becoming a member of the Special Forces and began his Army career with that in mind. After a one year tour in Korea, he was transferred to Germany for a three year stint there. On his leave between Korea and Germany, he acquired his second tattoo – stenciled across both forearms – the right forearm said ‘DUTCH’ and the left forearm said ‘AMERICAN’. I am
100% Dutch (my father was born in the Netherlands as were my mother’s parents), thus Justin’s heritage of Dutch-American. It was this tattoo that earned him the nickname of ‘DUTCH’ that he was known to all his Army friends as for the remainder of his life.
While in Germany, his unit deployed to Iraq from February 2004 to March 2005. While in Iraq, Justin and one of his best friends, Nathan, decided to become infantrymen, and changed their MOS. When they returned to the USA, both of them went to Fort Benning, GA for jump school in preparation of joining the 82nd Airborne out of Fort Bragg, NC. They were both assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 2-505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division. The 3rd BCT, 2-505 PIR deployed to Iraq on the 9th of August 2006. Justin and the rest of C-Company were stationed at PB Olsen, a small patrol base in Samarra, Iraq.
On March 5, 2007, the lead vehicle in the convoy of vehicles drove over a buried Improvised Explosive Device (IED) causing the catastrophic explosion of the vehicle. One of the soldiers was thrown from the vehicle. He was on fire, but still alive. Justin was the truck captain of the third vehicle in the convoy. He left the safety of his own vehicle with a fire blanket in an attempt to save the life of fellow soldier, SSG Rob Stanley. As Justin called the stretcher team forward to medevac the injured soldier, a second IED was detonated directly below his feet, killing him instantly along with two other soldiers. For his actions, he was posthumously awarded The Silver Star Medal for Gallantry in Action.
Justin had just been promoted to Staff Sergeant (SSG) a bit over a month before he was killed. He was just 25 and had recently re-enlisted for another four years, hoping to make a career out of the Army. He was just two weeks shy of his mid-tour R&R.
Operation Hero Trek
On March 24th Mike Mobley 58 year old father of twin boys – Purple Heart Recipient, Staff Sargent Matthew Mobley, US Army and Purple Heart Recipient, Sargent Ryan Mobley, US Marines Corps. Sargent Matthew Mobley has served 27 months in Iraq and Sargent Ryan Mobley, has served three tours in Iraq and is on his fourth tour in Afghanistan.
Mike is on a 3 month campaign to walk across the United States. He is raising awareness about the service and sacrifices our troops and their families make. This tour will educate civilians and children as we show our military and their families how much we appreciate and support their service and sacrifices for all of us.
Special events will be staged along the walking route. Americans will be invited to walk with Mike for some or the entire journey. The walk begins at Buckley Air Force Base in Colorado and ends at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina (over 2,000 miles). The route is dynamic and fluid based on weather, requests for stops, etc.
Made it to Sims, AR, home of Diane and John Salyers. Proud to be here. The TREK is going well and all things are good. Miss home and family a lot but not much longer now. It’s been over a month! Wow, where does time fly? Next stop Hot Springs, AR then Memphis, TN. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time. Pics to come later today.
Forrest a.k.a. Lorax
Howdy from the road. Sorry for the late posting. It’s been a while. Lack of internet access would be my main reason. Not an excuse, just a reason. Kansas was fun. Weather wasn’t bad but it wasn’t good either. First encounter with wind, rain and a bit of snow mixed in. Moved on to Dodge City, KS where the town was an historical and still is a REAL Cowboy town. Nice place and loads of Western History, which I happen to really like. Roamed in the same steps Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp and yes even Marshal Dillon. There are a LOT of feed lots in Dodge City..just sayin!
Like to give a shout out to Ms. Roberta at the Wyatt Earp Inn in Dodge City. She worked for 35 years at the local VA, retired and now runs the WE Inn. She was gracious enough to provide me a hotel stay and I really did appreciate it. Spent Friday and Sat night there then moved to the Holiday Inn Express where they helped me out with a nice room for Easter. Lonely Easter because it’s usually spent with family and friends, but after thinking how good I really have it and how all those deployed men and women are spending their Easter alone too…well, you get the picture.
Made it out of Kansas and into Oklahoma. Spent a bit of time at the KOA in El Reno, OK. They actually had a couple of bison in a corral there on the property. Kind of cool to see them up close. Made me think back to the old plains days and how much the buffalo meant to everyone back then.
The journey has been fullfilling thus far but last night I had the honor to have dinner with a Gold Star family, Mrs. Jenifer Allbaugh and her son, US Army Cpt Jason Allbaugh. Her son and Jason’s brother, USMC Cpl Jeremy Allbaugh was KIA 07.05.2007 in Al Qi’am Iraq. We had a great time and I thourghly enjoyed hearing all their stories. I will post most of the whole experience with pics included in a separate posting when I can actually gather all my thoughts and do the Allbaugh’s justice. They were such wonderful hosts and made me feel right at home. Oh, and the dinner was FANTASTIC. Grilled STEAK with all the trimmings! Yum.
Being on the road with little or no interface with TV and internet (and sometimes cell phone) I never realized how “connected” to all those things I really was. I miss the news, the updates and all the “Green Dots” too. But life goes on and I can catch up. Shout out to family in the Philippines, in Colorado, in Ohio and of course in NC!
Well, more to come later. Just a short update.
OHT in the news – From the Dodge City Daily Globe:
DODGE CITY — On March 24, Mike Mobley left his home in Colorado and started walking east. He’s not going to stop until he gets to North Carolina, where he will meet his son, who will be coming home from his fourth tour of duty in Afghanistan at the end of June.
Mobley’s twin sons have seven tours of duty between them. Matthew Mobley has served 27 months in Iraq and is now home, and Ryan Mobley is on his fourth tour of duty.
Mike said he hopes this will be the last one for both of his sons.
Operation: Hero Trek began as Mike’s way to show support not only for what his sons have given to their country, but to the thousands of others who are deployed as well. To honor them, Mobley has decided to walk 2,300 miles across the country. And he plans to do the entire walk while wearing combat boots.
As of last Friday, April 6, Mobley has walked 380 miles of his trek and is actually about 32 miles ahead of schedule.
Mobley is driving, then stopping in certain towns along his trip and walking. So, when he came to Dodge from Garden City he drove here, but then he will walk the equivalent of that distance while here in Dodge.
The Highlands Ranch Herald profiled Ryan and Matthew Mobley in a news story discussing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):
On March 24, Staff Sgt. Matthew Mobley accompanied his father Mike for the first five miles of his trek across the country.
The army sergeant’s father is walking to raise awareness about the United States military and military families everywhere.
“He always feels like he needs to do more for us, and this is a good thing for him to do,” Mobley said of his father. “It keeps him active, keeps his mind off of my brother being overseas. It keeps his mind off of me going overseas soon. And it’s for a good cause.”
Mobley, who re-upped with the Colorado National Guard after serving two deployments with the Army, is expected to deploy to Afghanistan sometime in early 2013. His twin brother, Ryan, meanwhile, a sergeant in the Marine Corps, is on his fourth deployment.
Enlisting right after graduation from Highlands Ranch High School in 2004, the brothers have both experienced traumatic brain injuries and PTSD.
“It’s a change when it happens to you,” explained Matthew, “but once you get used to it, it feels like nothing has changed at all. We are so used to it now that when people throw around ‘TBI’ and ‘PTSD’ tags to us, we know we have it but we don’t realize it. There’s a definite adjustment period the first year, though.
OHT in the news – From the La Junta Tribune-Democrat:
La Junta, Colo. — Mike Mobley began his trek to North Carolina to meet son Ryan, who is returning from a deployment with the Marine Corps. He is walking across America from Colorado Marine Air Control Squadron 23 to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He left on March 23 and spent three days in La Junta, where he visited the Koshare Kiva, walked the nature trail at Bent’s Old Fort several times and took a short tour of the fort.
His support man from headquarters was a little behind Mobley, as he notified the Tribune-Democrat that Mobley would be here on April 3. On April 3, he was at the Cow Palace in Lamar, where he took some time to send the Tribune some emails. A couple of fellows from Rocky Ford, Ted Torres and his son Eddie, took care of showing him the sights in Rocky Ford, including the cemetery where the Japanese interred here were buried, the Grand Theater and the Rocky Ford High School veterans display.
Happy April everyone. I hope April is finding everyone well and good. Praying for those in Texas. Weather is very unpredictable (except for Mr. Tony…he’s really, really good at predicting it) and the day before it was 78F and a bit windy but not too shabby all being said. Yesterday afternoon the front came in and the temp dropped to low 30’s and rain all day long. Little snow thrown in for good measure. So I’m holed up in a hotel until at least tomorrow. Hope the weather breaks!
Met some very nice young ladies at the Prowers County Public Health & Environment today. Ms.
Jackie Brown was so kind to help me out with a room last night. She invited me to her office this morning and I got to meet all these fine ladies. They have a great big heart and it was so nice to meet them all. The all promised to follow OHT via the web and send messages of encouragement my way in the coming months! Meeting all these wonderful folks on my TREK is making this much easier.
I miss the family back home. I guess, in a way, it’s like a deployment(a VERY small way). It’s always good to text with the kids and they are all pretty good about that. Text mind you, not actual speech! You always miss the family, especially right at first, but meeting folks like these ladies along the way kind of makes it all better for a little while.
I can see (not really) the CO/KS border from here. That will mark a HUGE milestone on my TREK. I’ll finally be out of Colorado and well on my way. Feet are holding up well, legs too. Energy is still good. Recharged both my mental state and my body by sleeping in a bed last night and actually having a toliet within 10 steps does wonders!
Small towns are the heart of America and the folks in them share all the same problems and worries we all do. They all seem to hold a very special place in their hearts for our troops! That’s been very evident from the people I’ve come across so far.
Got the “green dot” from Ryan last night again! It’s always great to IM with him. This time it was more than the normal 8 seconds. We IM’d about so much and it was good to finally catch up! The other one (as Matthew refers to himself) is in Indiana at an NCO Leadership course for the next two weeks. Took the good ole C-130 and I thought I heard him fly over early this morning, I’m sure of it! =)
Got all my dirty clothes together and went down to the laundry room, put the clothes in with no worry or thought to separating colors, put the laundry soap in and then the quarters and ….nothing. Bummer. Got my clothes out and went back to the room satisified with my laundry job…they at least smelled way better. It’s the effort that counts, right?
Next stop KANSAS!
Forrest a.k.a. Lorax
I don’t usually and probably will not in the near future post more than once a day, much less more than once in a week but since I need the practice and there are some very special folks that I need to give a shout out to I thought it would be OK this time.
KOA Kampgrounds has so far been a blessing to me. I know they are all independently owned and run and each one is separate in their own right, but thus far, they all have been just simply amazing to me and they all support our military! Starting with the Colorado Springs KOA just outside of Fort Carson, with my great friends Dan & Linda Scott and the Managers, Dennis and Y-Nette Shultz to the KOA in Pueblo with
Mike & Carolyn Stowe to the great folks here at the La Junta KOA, mother and daughter team, Penny and “Trouble!”, yep, that’s her real name! All wonderful folks who never blinked an eye and went the extra mile to make sure my stays were confortable and easy! Great folks all!
I know it’s going to be different down the road, with not knowing what’s really next up but open road but with great help from back home and actually all over the going seems like it going to be much easier.
Tony Hake, the webmaster and designer of the OHT web site, has helped in more ways that you can imagine. Checking ahead, keeping everyone posted as to progress, answering posting to the web and other questions as they relate to OHT. Amazing job Mr. T!
Tom Torres, F.O.B. Summit County, calling ahead and talking to relatives and securing me a place to lay my head! Great Job Mr. Tom! So much support from everyone all over. I get so many emails and fb postings and they all lift my spirits and keep me so motivated.
John Cote, the main man who has done this before for Fisher House, has been my guide and mentor through all this. Amazing is all I can say to you all.
Until next time,
Forrest a.k.a. Mike
The road is way more lonely than I had originally thought. Meeting great folks along the way, but their conversations and stories are all too short and all seem years ago.
Working my way EAST now so keeping the sunrise in my face and the sunset to my back. I can only imagine how they did this kind of thing way back when, before airplanes, before cars and busses. Slow, methodical progress. Every day seems like the day before then you meet someone and all things change for the better.
Good words of encouragement from several folks, including Ryan over in Afghanistan. That kind of stuff keeps the ole engine running and the gas tank full! Had my first real breakfast the other day. After hearing from Ryan (well, not actually “hearing” but IM’ing) and how they are all following my progress and they are all doing fine, I thought I’d treat myself to a nice couple of eggs, hash browns, bacon and a couple of pancakes. Didn’t work out so well. Most of it left on the plate. Couldn’t eat…no special reason, just wasn’t hungry. What I did eat tasted wonderful though.
Getting my supplemental nutrition form Max Muscle liquid vitamins and liquid Omega 3. I feel good and not tired. Feet are working great legs are holding up just fine. I was warned that the first week is the most difficult. Not physically but mentally.
I’m reading a lot more now, like in the old days. Seeing sights I most likely would never see and that’s a good thing. This country is the greatest country and it’s because of the people. I firmly believe that!
I did visit Bent’s Old Fort and the history is amazing there. What a place. Met some great folks there. Bob, who is the historian and tells all the good stories and facts about Bent’s Fort and Ms. Jody who runs the Book store. Two great folks. Bob even talked about his nephew who is a Marine!
Next spot down the road is Lamar! Getting closer and closer to getting out of Colorado! That will be a huge milestone!
Forrest a.k.a. Mike