Does it seem strange to be glad, now and again, that we get to do things that break our hearts? In the company of our country’s rough men, we had just such a precious thing unfold this week.
If you haven’t heard of Task Force Dagger, it’s worth a little trouble to explore what the organization is doing in the U.S. Army Special Operations community. Simply, when programs or capacities within the military, Veterans Administration or insurance providers can’t step up, Task Force Dagger does: Heart transplant deductibles, airline tickets, service dogs. You can pretty much name it.
Another crucial effort for TFD is Special Forces health initiatives. Naturally, these are focused on hazards SOF soldiers face disproportionately in their duty assignments—exposure to neurotoxins, traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
TBI and PTSD came to the fore this week in Colorado Springs, Colo. As nearby Fort Carson is the home of 10th SFG, we get the occasional opportunity to share their stories with AW readers (here and here, for instance), and we jump at any chance to support these dedicated warriors and patriots.
Sergeant First Class Doug WeCan’tUseHisName of 10th Group gave us just such a chance several weeks ago, when he advised us of the “Ride to Valhalla.” Brainchild of medically retired Green Beret Sergeant First Class Zach Garner and Staff Sergeant Adam WeCan’tUseHisNameEither, the ride focuses attention on the insidious nature and difficult diagnosis, treatment and interaction of TBIs and PTSD.
Adam makes the point with the directness you’d expect: “With 22 veterans a day committing suicide due to these injuries and stresses, we weren’t willing to wait. Zach was always a dedicated rider, and it was helping in his treatment and recovery. I just wanted to help my brother—all our brothers—in any way I could.” Thus was born the big ride: From Fort Lewis, Wash. (home of the 1st SFG), to Eglin AFB, Fla. (home of the 7th SFG), with stops at every SOF unit along the way—seven events, 4,600 miles!Thus was born the big ride: From Fort Lewis, Wash. (home of the 1st SFG), to Eglin AFB, Fla. (home of the 7th SFG), with stops at every SOF unit along the way—seven events, 4,600 miles!
Having faced the challenges of TBI himself, SFC Doug decided he could do more than just welcome his comrades. Hustling through his unit and the Colorado Springs civilian shooting community, he quickly put together a fundraising event—the 1st Annual Viking Shoot. “I’m not sure ‘surprised’ is the right word,” he told us. “This is a great community. But how the team members, sponsors and fellow shooters stepped up to support us on such short notice, well … I have no words but a profound ’thank you.’ They’re literally saving lives by participating today.”
The match itself consisted of three components: A two-stage rifle/pistol event, a pistol-only event and a balloon shoot for younger family members. The venue was yet another example of generosity from the community: Whistling Pines Gun Club owners Bob and Joyce Holmes opened their club for the exclusive use of the Viking Match for the entire day. Other sponsors showed up with literal bags of prizes and giveaways: Henning Wallgren’s BattleHook sights and “Operator” mag bases/extensions were scattered everywhere (he is, after all, an authentic Viking), and Magpul, Sharps Rifle Company and RE Factor Tactical were there too. The Colorado Avalanche Hockey team contributed sticks and Hall-of-Famer jerseys. Even Chick-fil-A Restaurants … perhaps you get the idea. This was a cause everyone wanted to support. With match management supported by the pros from Danger Close LLC, all the events ran without a hitch.
After the results were read and prizes passed out (along with a lot of ribbing), two observations really stuck with us. The first came from Valhalla Ride Marketing and Logistics boss Katie Nowicki: “It’s been an eye-opening experience. People from civilian backgrounds have no exposure to these injuries and just how devastating they can be, not just to the soldiers, but to their families too. With Zack and Adam getting the word out on TBI and PTSD, Task Force Dagger and the [Valhalla] Ride have a chance to really change that. It’s a blessing to play even a small part in making that happen.”
Local shooter Rick Bittle had the avuncular capper, though, in our minds. Sixty attendees and roughly $3,000 later: “Just took all the money outta my wallet and threw it in the pot” covered the mood about as well as could be imagined.
It’s a small price to pay, considering the price our Green Berets and other vets are paying.
NRA American Warrior will keep you posted on the ride. With a 93-percent pass through (only 7-percent overhead), there are very few better ways to support our veterans than Task Force Dagger and the Ride to Valhalla.