I’ve thought about writing this blog entry for some time, I felt it needed the right context and there is no better context than Veterans Day.
In 1978 the restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.
This day touches all of us on a personal level. I think it’s safe to say we’re all connected to someone who’s served our country whether they're family members, friends, friends of friends or neighbors. There is no escaping reflection on this day.
This past August I had an assignment from RedBull to photograph Rebecca Rusch, one of their athletes, racing in the Leadville 100 MTB race. I showed up a few days early to meet with Rebecca and hopefully the Phoenix Patriot Foundation Cycling Team member that she’d ride alongside with during the race. Her goal was to help this athlete meet his goal, which was going to be a PR for him.
Rebecca met all of the PPF team members and learned that Matt DeWitt, a double-armed amputee, would be her riding partner for the race. She was as nervous about the meeting him as he was to meet her. I truly believe connections are made through shared passions and respect so they had nothing to worry about. Matt is a veteran from Iraq and Rebecca’s dad is an MIA veteran from Vietnam. They had respect for each other in abundance and then of course passion for cycling goes without saying. In fact, I think cycling gives them a sense of balance in their lives.
The visual story I choose to recount in the following images took place during those few days prior to the race. Time is precious before the race so only quality time is available which assists in deepening the connections.
The highly anticipated meeting of these two is celebrated with a warm embrace and smiles.
Rebecca was leading a training ride for another fifty people when the PPF riders joined them at the bottom of the Powerline Climb.
This would be the first and only ride together before the actual race.
Rebecca Rusch and members of PPF: Jared Cole, Matt DeWitt, Bruce Gustafson, Juan Carlos Hernandez, Hunter Stoneking
If there was ever any doubt the Phoenix Patriot Foundation team was riding for a higher purpose it became real at this point. After their group ride they rode to a large Veterans Memorial is located in Leadville's historic Evergreen Cemetery. The memorial salutes all veterans as well as specific memorial to Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Edgar McWethy, U.S. Army and LCPL Nicklas J. Palmer, USMC.
Rebecca was honored and humbled when presented with a her new riding kit for the race.
Matt and his PPF teammates are being recognized for his service and courage during a rider get together the evening before the race. When vulnerability is opened strength is born.
At the memorial they were greeted by Niklas Palmer's parents to honor of their son and all other veterans. It's moments like this moment that heighten the awareness that we need to celebrate Veterans Day every day.
Remarkable humans being not just humans doing. RESPECT!
Rebecca Rusch and members of PPF: Jared Cole, Matt DeWitt, Bruce Gustafson, Juan Carlos Hernandez, Hunter Stoneking, Casey Robinson, Timothy Brown, Guy McDermott
Mission accomplished a PR time for Matt and a connection for Rebecca that will never grow old. A reminder to always strive to be a better version of yourself.
Hug a Veteran today and every day you can.
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