Over the past 5 years, I have had the privilege of racing, training, and building a relationship with our core group of riders on the LAPT-Wilde Subaru Cycling team. We have always had a great deal of fun challenging and supporting one another to push harder, dig deeper, and find success. Success is certainly something our team can put on the resume, having been recognized via invitations to some of the country’s largest races in recent years, but we found ourselves seeking something more. We wanted our success to mean something, to stand for something more than a place on the podium and a medal put around our neck. This is where Project Echelon comes in...
Several years back Eric Beach and I met through our wives and their long lasting friendship from high school. At first, Eric B. was an average guy, the same as me, doing what he could to find his place in the world and support his young family. Thankfully, over the last few years, I have had the privilege of getting to know Eric B. on a deeper level. He started to share some of the personal trials and tribulations that he has now found the strength to share publicly with you, but at first those inner struggles and feelings were covered up and hidden. As I learned more about his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), the work that he was involved with with organizations like This Able Veteran, Mission 22, USA Cares, and others, the more I was inspired by his story and felt a calling to take action and do something to give back to the veteran community.
The rest of the story can be told in the recent work we have done to build Project Echelon. Our Elite Cycling team will be joining forces with the veteran athletes of Project Echelon to share our passion for exercise and competition and help build the same brotherhood and network of support that I found 5 years ago in our cycling team. Project Echelon is our opportunity to give back and support those who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for our country and for our families… it is our opportunity to “be the change that we want to see in the world.”
It is for this opportunity that I am grateful and humbled to be a part of.
- By Eric Beach -
I spoke with my sister yesterday and she said something that has become an echoed sentiment. The crazy part is its all because of one picture!
This simple picture has been the genesis of so many comments, both in writing and in conversation. People are telling me, "You look so happy these days!" I receive those statements because the good days out number the bad for the first time since I can remember. I owe that to the Echelon, to relationship.
Life has taught me, through various experiences, life is survived alone but lived in relationship. Both life and relationship require work. In truth, any reward we receive without work is meaningless. Without having earned it, we soon are left empty, chasing after another temporary high.
I earned some tears on Saturday. I found catharsis on the road. My wife dropped me off at the gym so I could swim and then run home as I trained for the Wisconsin Milk Man Triathlon. After dropping me off, she took the girls to another gym so she could work out and the girls could play. This plan left me with a small challenge... I swam the 1000 meters just fine. I changed into my running gear and prepared to run. The only issue was, I would need to run wearing my backpack with all my gear in it. It weighed 10 lbs. Not terrible, especially when compared to the ruck runs from my Army days!
I threw on my pack and ran.
About a mile in, my legs were on fire! For a second, I was hard on myself, but then something changed. I told myself "You are going to finish the 8 mile run without stopping, so get used to the burn!" Then I thought of my Dad. I thought about Hawkeagle, Ott, SFC Phillipe, my SSG Ruppert, and all those soldiers and loved ones I've lost. They are gone. Their legs can no longer feel the burn of physical exertion... But I can.
The backpack became their memory and the fire in my legs became their presence. I put them on my back and told them I loved them and wasn't going to quit until I brought them home. I wept tears of pure joy and healing on mile 2.
I left a lot out there on the run. Thats the beauty of training! Cutting down your mile time is great. Increasing the distance you can run and growing stronger are both good things. But, healing your soul... Thats the win! Thats what makes this all worth it!
The life change is what puts the twinkle in your eye and the clarity in your mind. Fight hard to achieve it and the world of possibilities opens up before you.
How could I find this healing and not share it with everyone who will listen? To silence that voice is to run from relationship, to split from the Echelon, and head to the cave of isolation.
I choose to fight! I choose to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who are ready to step into the sun. I choose to boldly face truth and reality and hold the hands of the walking wounded as they bare their souls standing courageously vulnerable. I choose to embrace those that would uncover their wounds and say, "Here I am imperfect, broken, ready to heal, and ready for a change because the old way isn't working."
At its core, Project Echelon is relationship. We extend our hand and an invitation. Come out of your cave and join us in the open air. Squint if the sun is to bright. But trust me, in time, I promise your eyes will adjust to the light... Mine have.
- By Eric Beach -
Last night I raged in a way I haven't raged in a long time. I thought I was going to lose control. Part of my commitment to you and to this project is to share the good and the bad in my healing from PTSD and TBI. Last night was bad.
As a man, realizing you're scaring your family is a terrible reality. I'm thankful my family knows I'm committed to healing. I'm thankful they are able to allow me the space needed to process and calm. It's what I, and many other veterans need.
I know I'm growing, because I reached out when my mind told me to isolate. I have a group of brothers gained through my experience at the "Save a Warrior" program. They have been a source of constant strength, encouragement, and support since October 2015. They were my first "Echelon".
I said in our Facebook group, I'm not doing well. Then I balled my eyes out... They called, they texted, They left voicemails, and they left me an open door. Once I poured out my emotions, I walked through that door.
Its a game changer to have a group who understands you and your struggles. Its crucial. They carried me last night and I've been there for them in the same way and that won't change. Thats the Echelon.
This morning, I reflected on the events of last night and was so happy I was able to see the heart of Project Echelon in action. We exercise, we train, we compete, but above all, we are a family. To navigate the crosswinds of life, we need an echelon of people who understand you, who have been where you are, and who need you more than you need them.
Fly with us to find purpose. Fly with us to find family. Fly with us to tell YOUR family you love them and will fight for them. Fly with us because we need you.
This morning as I wrote this, my girls wanted to be with me. I'm thankful for that. They need their daddy and they will have him.