Letter from Ben ....
I grew up in the town of Rancho Santa Fe, a quaint, peaceful, wealthy town tucked away from the rest of the world. The town in Southern California where you can still send your kids outside to play and your only worry is they might scrap their knee or fall out of an citrus tree .
I grew up in a very nice house and was provided all the necessities and then some. I was fortunate to have clothes, food and shelter, things that lots of my friends took for granted and expected. Not only did I have the basics, but I got pretty much whatever I wanted from the first Nintendo, the newest Air Jordans, go carts, dirt bikes you name it. I constantly listened to "Red Hot Chili Peppers”, and other explicit lyrics of my choosing to my Dad's dismay.
I'm not very proud of some of the choices I made during my high school years. I never wanted to be viewed as a silver spoon kid from "Rancho". If it was "bad " or “wrong",I did it to prove to everyone I was Alpha, I would top everyone. I played Lacrosse and football for Torrey Pines and was named MVP player of the year as a defensive player. We were CIF champions.
My junior year I went on several recruiting trips back East to look at the top lacrosse programs in the country and continuing my education.
On my recruiting trip back to Providence College we were visiting the weight room and indoor training facilities. On our way to the lacrosse coaches’ office, I peered in a room we were walking past that was filled with men with camouflage faces, cleaning dozens of weapons from the standard M4 to machine guns. I stopped right in my tracks,didn't say a word, and left the lacrosse coach standing in the hallway as I walked into the room. A man named Colonel McGonagle greeted me. We started chatting and he explained that they had been in the woods for the last 3 days, sleeping on the ground, eating out of these brown bags called MREs, and running around with the weapons they were cleaning, practicing missions like raids and ambushes. At that point, I was speechless. I was very interested in this program he called ROTC. He explained to me that if I chose to go to school at Providence, he had a 4 year scholarship for me. He said the government would pay for my 4 years of college, give me text book money for all my classes, and give me $300 a month spending money! He was telling me I would get to do what I LOVE and get paid to do it ! He further explained that after I graduated and while all my classmates were trying to figure out what they were going to do with their lives,the other ROTC cadets and I would have a job, a 4 year active, 2 year reserve contract, as a commissioned officer in the United States Army. I further learned that once a commissioned officer, the Army would pay me to jump out of planes at Airborne School, become an expert with demolitions, and receive small unit patrol tactics at the prestigious US Army Ranger School. He stated that I would have to earn spots to attend those training schools,and it starts with my academics. I would also be required meet and exceed the physical requirements on the Army PT test. Not only did I want to serve, but I felt this calling to serve in the most challenging and dangerous capacity that I was able, as a Ranger.
After successfully graduating Army Ranger, Sapper, and Airborne schools, I realized at that point, I had learned more about myself and life in general within that short year than all of my previous 21 years lumped together. I felt confident in any situation that I was placed in. I was coming from this last year of tough training, where I was cold, wet, hungry, tired, freezing, and exhausted, and was placed in leadership positions where I was evaluated on how well I motivated other soldiers, how well I executed the tasks of the assigned patrol, and if we succeeded or failed for that mission. The Ranger Instructor grading would give a "Go" or "No Go" for that patrol which depended on my success or failure.
I began Ranger school at 230 lbs and graduated 3 months later at 185 lbs. At Sapper school, I was placed in the same scenario, sleep and food deprived and attempting to rig and calculate demolition charges to the best of my ability and try not to get anyone blown up. Airborne school was pretty easy and fun, you just shuffled to the door of the aircraft and kind of fell out, or if you hesitated, you got kicked out the door by the jumper behind you, or if you were last by the jump master himself.
Then, I was assigned a platoon of 28 soldiers along with over 8 million dollars of weapons and equipment, assigned to my name. Talk about your first job right out of college, those are a lot of assets, let alone any other job in the world where you are assigned and responsible for human lives. I was now in command of these men, most of them older than me. The majority of them had been in the Army for 4 or more years, some had been in the Army longer than I had been alive on this earth. Yes, I out-ranked every one of these soldiers. However, the first valuable lesson my platoon sergeant gave me was rank can be given by the chain of command, however, respect has to be earned by your soldiers!
During my 4 years in active duty, I strived every day for the respect of my soldiers. At first, lots of the soldiers were hesitant to offer up a salute even though it was mandatory military regulation to salute any officer if you were an enlisted soldier. It was as if the soldiers were mad at me because I was an officer, and I outranked them and was in charge of them. However this changed quickly as I chose to separate myself from other officers.
I would always eat with my Platoon and not the other officers. I never expected to go through the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual trauma that I experienced. I still have moments where I hear the sounds of IED explosions, dream of fire fights, flashbacks of putting my brothers-in-arms in body bags, replaying destroying the enemy, or when hearing the sound of “taps”, I’m reminded of those who gave all .
I'm not alone with the trauma my brain and body still experience, there are millions of men and women whoseminds and bodies have suffered.
I have found my “why". My wife, beautiful 5 children, coaching sports, running, weight training, helping others reach their best mental and physical condition possible.
Not everyone has had the ability to find their “why". I am committed to helping our nation’s heroes find their "why". We have lost too many, we continue to loose too many, and too many are lost trying to find any solid plan of how to care for their minds and bodies. They need to heal.
On April 30, 2017, I will run 81 miles with a three person team (not a relay) in the Badwater Salton Sea Race for these men and women. I'm attempting to raise funds for the 9weekwarrior project where Veterans will receive 9 weeks of much needed care. At no cost the the Veteran,they will get 9 weeks of personal training, massage, nutritional support/planning, constitutional homeopathic treatment, yoga, acupuncture, and they get to do this with other Veterans going through the same challenges.
I'm asking you for your help .
Many of you have not only helped me by being our amazing caring friends, but you are the people my family and I share our lives with.
Together let's do right by these men and women, who carry the burdens of peace.
Please donate however you can ....
Tired , beat up but finished !
30 miles yesterday, it wasn't pretty! I had the pleasure of running the last six with my amazing children.
Yesterday I ran 26 miles luckily I had four of my kids on their bicycles cheering you on for 17 of them .
My feet hurt my bones hurt my legs are sore , but every time one of my feet hit the ground I am grateful for those who have sacrificed so much more than me .
For those who sacrifice so much !
The real heros