May 9, 2014
Two weeks ago, my high school friend and now Army Lieutenant Colonel, Scott Fitzgerald, invited me to speak at Lewis/McChord Army/Air Force Base to a battalion of soldiers, most of them soon deploying to Afghanistan. The base is in DuPont, Washington, near Seattle, so it was surprising to have sun shining when my teammate Tanner, my guide dog Yuri, and I landed and took our first steps out of the airport. We felt it was a good omen for such an important day. Before arriving at the base, we fueled up in true athlete fashion with crispy chicken sandwiches and fries from Wendy’s.
My talk was in an old-style movie theater complete with a projector room in the back, balcony, and even a popcorn stand in the lobby, so I figured if the soldiers were bored, they could always entertain themselves by throwing popcorn at the unsuspecting blind guy on stage; Yuri would have loved that. LtCol Fitzgerald's team, however, were true gentlemen and gentlewomen, engaged, absorbing everything, and even laughing uproariously at parts of my story like when I mistook a syrup bottle for a soap bottle and tried to wash the dishes with syrup. Overall, it was a special opportunity to share a message of harnessing adversity, to use it like fuel to propel ourselves forward and emerge on the other side, not damaged goods, but stronger and better. This is part of the struggle to live a No Barriers Life every day. These soldiers are deploying in a month or two to replace and cover the soldiers exiting Afghanistan. In other words, they’ll be engaged in the crucial mission of bringing our troops home, and they’re sure to face some major adversities along the way!
After I spoke, Scott surprised me with a battalion coin and awesome Lewis/McChord shirt. I am always honored when I receive battalion coins. It makes me feel a part of the military’s rope team. My son, Arjun, and I collect these coins in a booklet, and we love going through them together as the years go by. Thank you Scott!
Over the years I have spoken to many military operations, from Wounded Warrior Battalion West Marines to bases throughout Europe on a USO Air Force tour, and I feel fortunate to have been asked to give a little to our country, even though I’m a wimpy civilian. Thank you to all of those who serve and have served, and especially to the Lewis/McChord team.