Original home town: Van Buren, Ohio
Current home town: Mint Hill, NC
Employer: Axus Technology
Position/title: Director of Business Development
Veteran status and Branch of service: Honorable Discharge, U.S. Army
Any military/veteran connection or are you riding in honor of a military member/veteran?
BR: Grandfather, father, brother-in-law, son-in-law, friends, mentors, fellow veterans
Personal reason for making the ride?
BR: Initially, what drew me to the A.S.A.P. program was an off-chance opportunity for me to take my young grandson to a physical therapy session specifically for treatment on the “Loco-Mat” robotic device that helps both young and mature alike to gain or regain the ability to walk. Aaron was born at 1 pound 14 ounces, and along with his twin brother Hobson, who was 2 pounds, was born on the first day of their 26th week. They have both been through a lot. Aaron, with his CP, has faced many challenges. When I took him to that rehab session, I saw large photos on the walls of people riding hand-cycles, people water skiing, people snow skiing, playing wheelchair rugby, tennis, basketball, and other athletic events that frankly speaking, I did not realize could be done. There were children, teenagers, adults, wounded warriors, stroke victims, accident victims, and so many others.
As I looked at those photos on the wall, my heart was struck by the fact that I had been so completely unaware of not just the needs of others which in and of itself was an eye-opening moment, but the incredible determination which I could see on their faces. Their drive to become active again, their drive to take part in life again, their drive to be viable again, their drive to overcome what was otherwise holding them, clutching them in ways I could not understand, and before this, in my small-mindedness, completely ignored. I just wanted to do something. I became part of the support group that rides with these incredible people every spring for three days in what is call “Cycle-to-the-Sea,” covering 180 miles, and raising funds to help A.S.A.P. in their wonderful work. The support of this concept through the “Cycle to the Sea” program has now become a part of my life, too.
In addition to this, and building on the main theme, some of us are going to ride over 3100 miles from “Sea-to-Shining-Sea” if you will, from Camp Pendleton, CA, to Camp Lejeune, NC. This ride is being organized to bring an increased awareness to our Wounded Warriors, military veterans, and others who may not have the mobility that others enjoy. We want to bring more emphasis to the US Paralympic trials, to raise funds for Semper Fi/America Fund, the Adaptive Sports and Adventures Program, the Independence Fund, AmericaServes, NCServes, and others. We take so much for granted in this society and in our country including the inalienable rights and freedoms that are protected by countless men and women who keep watch every day and every night in the name of human dignity, in support of the constitution, and to preserve and defend our way of life.
During what became known as the “Vietnam Era,” I was drafted and served in the United States Army Medical Optical Mobile Activity. This was not a dangerous mission by any means, but while in advanced training at Fitzsimons Army Hospital in Aurora, Colorado, just east of Denver, I came into contact with those many returning veterans, young people my own age and younger, who had given so much, who had in most cases, lost their mobility or their dexterity, or their determination, or sadly in many cases, their will to live. I was not a kid anymore by that time, but still, had not experienced these types of realities. Many years have passed since that experience, but I can still see their eyes, and it still tugs at my heart.
I have been fortunate beyond description. I have been blessed with a great family and support network. My career in robotics, microelectronics and semiconductors has taken me all over the world to 43 countries and all 50 states, and has brought experiences and rewards beyond my wildest expectations for a kid out of a tiny little mid-western town. But some of my greatest rewards and some of my greatest experiences it now is clear to me, lie not thousands of miles away, but just those few inches away when I look into the eyes of my amazing cycling friends. Their eyes show me something different than what I saw at Fitzsimons those many years ago. I do not see despair, but I do see the restoration of pride, self-worth, motivation, encouragement, perseverance, strength beyond my comprehension, and a belief that “We Can Do This!”