Our journey started at 4am. We left the hotel and headed into White Sands. I was nervous, but nothing like before. I knew that today was important and I needed to enjoy it so I could see God’s glory. It was the perfect morning. My pack was ready. Aaron and Dina were there. We would be meeting up with Amy, Carey and Hansel shortly.
Our packs were very special this year. Dina’s pack was representing the 14 angels from the 45th Infantry Brigade. My pack held 23 ribbons – 22 represented veterans and 1 represented Active Duty that die from suicide due to Combat PTSD daily. Each ribbon respresented an actual person, but was also a symbol for those who die daily.
We started off strong. The five ladies were in a different category than Aaron so he would not start with us. It wouldn’t be long before he would catch up.
Somewhere along mile 2 I lost my crew. Not because I was slow or holding them down, but God had other plans. I was stopped by an elderly lady over my pack. Then, she needed to show her friend. Before I knew it, they were gone. I was a little sad to have lost them so early in the game but I wasn’t going to fret. Periodically, I would find them at a water or portapotty station. I knew at this point, it was journey I was to make mostly alone, or at least without MY crew.
Right before I ran into Aaron, I was told that my pack was inappropriate. I should have talked to them and found out why, but I just walked on. Immediately after, I heard two different people discussing my pack and how it was inappropriate. I was sad and defeated already. Seeing Aaron helped, he told me not to worry about what people thought and introduced me to the friend he had made. His friend explained that my pack points out what people don’t want to deal with and this probably means they are dealing with their own issues. I would then meet another man. He asked me about my pack. “Ma’am, is that your family?” I replied, “No sir, these are men and women who died from suicide due to Combat PTSD.” He replied. “WOW, thank you for doing that and, I mean no disrespect in this, but if it means enough for you to put them on your pack, they are family. Military family IS family.” We parted ways, but his perspective helped perk me back up. What really moved me forward was Jason’s post on FB: There are many that don't understand. You are a warrior bringing awareness to the struggle our warriors face returning home. Don't be deflated because that's what causes people to give up...Ironically it's your very mission! Push forward and let your message be clear...too many of our service members are hurting...they need people to engage them…22 a day is unsatisfactory! 1 is too many!!!
People were starting to cheer me on. It was exciting to watch. I didn’t want to let them down, but I also didn’t want to get caught up in pleasing people either. I lost my signal AND my sunglasses. I am really upset over the sunglasses. By Mile 7-8, I had been running into my crew off and on, and it was giving me the burst I needed to continue. It was around this time that I would not see the girls again during the race. It was here that I would realize WHY I had to go alone. I stopped at Med Tent to do a foot check and they remembered me. I told them I was just checking my feet and taking a rest break because I wanted to be smart this year so I could finish. They took me to an air conditioned tent and talked to me about last year and this year. I left this tent and made my way up the Hill of Hell. About half-way up there is another Med Tent. This is the tent that has meant so much to me. It was the location where I was pulled the first year, and the tent that made me want to continue last year. This is the location of my most favorite medic and I don’t even know her name. I will find it out next year. She believes in me and she made me promise last year to come back and see her. I had a promise to keep, and I did.
I continued up the hill promising to see her when I returned, because you hit it again on your way back around. At the top of the hill (this hill is about 3 mile constant climb), I ran into Aaron. He was starting to feel the effects of the march. The heat was brutual and he was not doing well. He said he was fine and wanted to continue. We stayed together until the next Med Station. Here they were serving food, so we found place under a tent for him to sit and I went to get food. I was worried about him because he was not looking good. Yet, he wanted to continue. It is important to note that this is the SAME tent where Dina and I had separated the year before. Jason told me to get him checked out. The marcher in me needed to continue. The wife in me needed to stay. I was tormented but I was not leaving my husband until I knew he was ok. After he ate, he was not feeling any better, maybe worse. I was having to guess at this point because he stopped talking to me.
We walked to the Med Tent and they asked what was wrong, and he told them a little. I finished his symptoms, the one that was most important – HEADACHE! He and I talked that his journey needed to end, but that there was nothing to be ashamed of because he promised me that just starting was no small feat. I knew though, he would not quit and they would medically pull him or he would continue. Aaron is not a quitter – Aaron has never NOT finsihed anything he has started. This was not easy for him or for me. I was ready to stay with him and, he did it, he sent me on my way. He said I needed to go finish! I walked away crying. I tried not to cry too hard in front of him. I knew his emotions – he was feeling defeated. He was questioning his worth and capabilities at this point. He was at an all time low. I wasn’t much better because I was leaving him ALONE to deal with those emotions ALONE. I cried. I called Jason. I couldn’t call Dina or Amy. Jason assured me that the Medics would take good care of him and that he would never be able to live with the fact that he kept me from finishing and to push on with my mission. I stopped crying and I met up with Janelle, a lady I walked with earlier, she walked with me. She was prior military and now here as a civiliain. She echoed what Jason said and promised to stay with me as long as her feet allowed her. She was having the same blister issues I did earlier. Eventually, she sent me on and said she would see me at the Med Tent. I get back to my favorite tent and medic. She carries me back to the air conditioner. People start coming in to see me because they all remembered me. They fed me skittles. J I was a celebrity! Just kidding…but I had made an impact the year before and now I was making another impact. They were amazed at how well I was doing and we cheered that I was going to finish this year. I hated to leave them but came out of the tent to find my friend DQ’d. She was sad, but her feet would not let her continue. She had a rash of unknown sources that had popped up. She gave me her number and asked that I let her know how I finish. We all say our good-byes and I finish my climb down the hill.
I get around the Med Tent that made a tunnel for me last year. They were super busy, so I just grabbed a cot. I knew at this point I had a blister, but needed to see how bad it was. Luckily, it was only two small ones, and they had already popped. So I did my feet care and hydrated, as people began to ask if they knew me. I told them who I was and, again, the excitement couldn’t be contained. I was about 2-3 hours ahead of last year. I still had six miles to go but I had three hours to do it in.
I let Jason know that I am about to enter the sandpit. Facebook goes crazy with people cheering me on. I had made it through the sandpit last year. I knew how brutual it was, so I was a little nervous. I was starting to cramp. Butt Spasms don’t just happen in Crossfit, they happen in the desert too.
As I am in the sandpit, I am watching people drop like flies. It is HOT and It is getting harder to continue. I was walking with a solider when two kids asked for food. The friend had hit his wall. The solider only had one sandwich left and in perfect military fashion gave it to them. The momma in me kicked in and we went through my pack finding more food for the two of them. After eating a bit, he was feeling better, so I moved on. Next I come up on a group of young ones and one is down. He is shaking and crying. I am scared for him. They have already sent for medical and he has someone who has medical experience helping or at least it seems he has experience, so I move on.
I reach the last medical tent. I KNOW that this is it if I need any help. My butt hurts. My legs feel like lead and I am not sure how much further I can go, but I know I am about to hit the spot where I was pulled. I stop and take a picture at Mile 22.
Mile 22 was important because of the 22 Veterans who die a day from suicide AND it was the last mile marker I officially saw last year. I was pulled about 50-100 yards before I hit mile 23 last year. I have service again and I can read all the encouragement from facebook. Aaron is texting me now. Jason calls me to see how I am doing and lets me know that Dina is in the medical tent. My heart drops. He said she finished and is being treated, then plans to come find me. J This folks is friendship. Anyone who is in a medical tent but it is worried about getting to you. YOU SHOULD NEVER TAKE FOR GRANTED WHAT YOU HAVE. I asked Jason to keep her at the finish line and I will be there. He tells me to pick up my pace and finish! An amazing thing happens right here in this moment in time. EVERY ACHE and CRAMP I have disappears. Physically, I felt like I just started the march. So I picked up my pace. I was passing people.
I get to Mile 25 and Jason tells me to hurry that it is almost 8pm. We don’t want them to not consider me an official finish since it is after 8pm. I told him I was about 20-30 ahead of the last people and I was hearing rumors they were letting us finish but pulling others further back. Right after I round Mile 25, I hit complete darkness. OMG. It was scary. I was sure a snake or coyote was going to attack me and keep me from finishing. I texted them all and told them I was scared. Jason told me to PUSH HARD and PUT THE DARKNESS BEHIND ME. I had to push hard, I was scared. I was already thanking God for taking my cramps away but now I was praising his name. It was unbelievable how good I felt.
I hit light and I saw the finish line and the tears started to come. I get there and someone yells, “You just finished Bataan, where is your smile?” I threw my backpack up in the air and yelled YES!!! I walked across to see Dina standing there crying. She took some pictures. I shook the Commander’s hand. We walked to the car. Aaron was too sick and hurt to greet me at the finish line. As soon as I walked away, I was met by a golf cart who took me to my car.
YES – I FINISHED! More importantly, once again, I told our story: the story of Battle Flag Ranch and Combat Boot Divas over and over. Not quitting and coming back made an impact on people. It was all only possible by the grace of God and the support of my friends and family. This is a finish that I will never forget!