This is why we do what we do…
Allied Forces Foundation (AFF) is an amazing charity that hosts events that brings together true heroes from multiple nations who served in recent conflicts and challenges them mentally and physically in order to facilitate their healing as a team.
The love and dedication towards participants from folks such as Stu and Nicola is unprecedented. There are many amazing charities out there, but what AFF has been able to do through events such as the Cateran Yomp is second to none.
AFF’s tireless work ethic in bringing everyone together and their ability to organize such an amazing event truly fostered a camaraderie that I have not experienced since operating and patrolling in some of the world’s most austere and dangerous locations. Bringing together such true heroes and how seamless everyone integrated in togetherness was a joy that I am struggling to put into words.
I was truly humbled to be a part of such an event and to be around men and women that are my personal heroes. We came together and synced immediately in not only an emotional bond, but with a grueling physical challenge that many, including myself, did not think they could complete only a short time ago because of the physical and mental trauma of war.
The Cateran Yomp was the most grueling, yet gratifying challenge I have ever taken on. As I hiked through some of the most breathtaking scenery I ever witnessed in my lifetime, I often daydreamed and found myself in tears. As you walk mile after mile, hour after hour, your insecurities, anger, and thoughts of what you used to be melt away. Every person that went through this has different emotions, demons, different love, and different forms of guilt and hope. For me, the last time I put my body through something like that, and hiked in that manner was when I was in Afghanistan. I performed over 100 combat patrols on my last deployment until I was medevac 10 months in. As dangerous as that was, I still long for that. I longed for that camaraderie, that closeness with my brothers, and that physical challenge. After being medevac, and coming home and being in the hospital, recovering, etc, I always longed to experience something like that again, that sense of challenge, that sense of purpose.
As I walked through the Highlands and looked at a beauty that few have ever seen, it gave me the opportunity to reflect on my life and everything that I have accomplished and everything that I regret not accomplishing. As the miles went on, and my body started to experience exhaustion, pain, etc. my newly acquainted brothers and sisters continued to push me to keep moving, to believe in myself as I once did before being injured. I began to experience what hope is again. While hiking so many thoughts raced thru my head. Joy, sorrow, regret, hope… I thought of my brothers and sisters from the past that are no longer with us, or are altered forever emotionally and physically from the horrors and glory of war. I kept pushing myself to do this for them. What I didn’t realize at the time was, not only was I doing this for them, but I was doing this for myself to be whole again.
Just a few short years ago, I had a cane, I couldn’t stand up without falling over because my balance was so bad, and my physical injuries that nagged at me at times were difficult to overcome, and I was angry because of it.
The Yomp was an unbelievable turning point. That was then, this is now, as here I was, four years after being medevac from Afghanistan, and I’m hiking through some of the toughest, most beautiful terrain in the world. Here I am walking across the finish line for the bronze medal after 23 miles. Here I am after getting my feet patched up going out for another 18 miles and completing the silver medal in absolute darkness. This is a feeling that words can not describe.
In the last four years I have looked to so many different things to help me feel alive again, to help me feel whole again. There have been many amazing experiences that have made me happy for a moment or more, but nothing that made me feel whole again and believe in myself as I once did like this trip.
Of all of the good and bad of serving and being in so many conflicts and dangerous situations, I will always miss the camaraderie, challenging myself to push the limits, and the satisfaction and elation that comes with that journey and its completion.
The entire week with these heroes, culminating in the challenge of the Cateran Yomp made me feel this way again for the first time since I was injured, and that feeing has been sustained. I truly savor the moment, and continue to think about that journey every day since completing the Yomp. Not a day goes by since that amazing trip that I don’t think of the brothers and sisters I spent the week with, and how the overall experience changed my life and put me back on track in a lasting way.
I still have a long journey ahead of me, but for the first time in years I believe in myself and I know that I can accomplish anything. Thru the Yomp my dream is that others like us can feel this life altering event that I have been so blessed to attend.
Thank you Stu, Nicola, and all the team at AFF for giving me an outlet to help me get my life back and having others like me who showed me that my life isn’t over, it’s just beginning.
Wow… I didn’t think I would write that much… but it poured from my heart and soul.
Thank you all again… Everyone that attended and were a part of this. I’m forever grateful.
Yours in Patriotism,