“Food for Thought” by Rocco Wachman
We had the most amazing week last month and experienced some things that have changed our lives “Forever.” I had always perceived myself as a motivated, result orientated and also tough man who at times can have a soft side. Those thoughts were quickly changed when we spent five days horseback with six men from the United Kingdom who came to the Arizona Cowboy College.
They were sent to the College and Lori Bridwell by a charitable organization called, BLESMA. The British Limbless Ex Service Men`s Association that is a British based non profit that works to help rehabilitate Retired Soldiers who have given up a limb, or two in service of their Country and the World`s Freedom. Also part of Blesma`s commitment is to send these men and women on trips all over the World to visit places of their personal
interests to help them prove that still can do what they did before their injuries and experience new things. We at the College were fortunate enough to peak BLESMA`s
interest and be able to accommodate their needs with the primary concern being the “Personal Safety” of the participants. We passed the test!
On Sunday late evening six men arrived at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport for a quick trip to the Ranch and for everyone to get settled in. It was a learning experience for everyone on my crew to watch these “Warriors” go through an incredibly difficult daily routine to
cope with their Prosthetics. We had two men that were double amputees, legs above the knees. Three had lost one leg and finally Andy who had lost an arm to a “Passing
RPG” has he describes the event. Mick had lost both legs from being rolled over by a railroad car and also owns and rides four horses at home. Ash had two legs removed by
a bomb he was attempting to diffuse. Lori asked him if there was a moment when he realized it went bad? He answered that he felt weightless for a second or two before he passed out for a bit. “Passed out for a Bit!” My God……. Stuart and Michael lost a leg each to IED`s and Lee by motorcycle. I was embarrassed to mention that my knees hurt
When we started on Monday I was as close to a mental wreck from worrying how we were gonna pull this off without killing somebody. I mean it is hard enough and
dangerous enough to ride a horse with all you parts but missing legs, arms….. I was frazzled. My Boss, Lori Bridwell persuaded me to trust in our horses, “The Method” and with that everything would be fine. So we started slow and easy. We watched what was hard for them to do and what was not possible for them to do based on the working of
their individual situations. Just because two people might me missing two legs all of us have learned that their prosthetics work on them very differently. Based on observations we made adjustments and changed rules.
They spent two days in town getting them ready to ride in some of the toughest country around and then they left for another three days remote. I mean remote! On Wednesday
we are now with this group, and we have no hardline phone, no cell phone. We do have a Satellite Phone though that we don't know how to use. Ah!!!!!!!!!!!!!! These guys rode
every day for five days and never ask to stop. They were always on time, always willing to help each other and also me. I think the most amazing thing that hit me was they were
always smiling. I have complained and moaned about my knees for years. I am getting new ones early this year but these men never quit and never let their losses slow them
down. They rode to gather cattle, they penned the cows while horseback, worked the cattle sometimes on foot and inoculated and branded the ones that were needed done.
They worked the squeeze chute and tables all without any help from me or my crew, all I did was bark at them. Which, by the way is what I am famous for.
Each day after work we would sit by a fire with The Brits, Lori Bridwell and our team Christine Reed, Maddy Schmidt, Dennis Kiss, Gordon Rule, Debbie Brown, and Val Woodruff. We would talk about the days adventures and each time a memory was told it was amazing to see it be embellished and get bigger and bigger each time it was revisited. Thursday night when I came to the fire to share a Bourbon with the boys was the first time I saw an amazing sight. Anyone who had a Prosthetic had it removed and either laying in the grass next to them or holding it in their laps cleaning and making sure there was no damage. Some of these legs actually had to be plugged in at night to charge. Ash had two different sets, one for walking and one for horseback. I saw the pain, swelling and stiffness set in as the night went on, but they never complained. They just kept smiling and enjoying their time for all it was worth. It was humbling to see how they coped with their individual challenges.
In the twenty some odd years I have been doing this with Lori we have never seen tougher people. We have never seen people who lived so much for the moment. Each one of these men at the time of their loss knew they were going to die from their injuries. But they didn't…… So because of that they have a love of life that we have never witnessed before and it changed us all for the better. They were the bravest people we have ever met, true warriors and we have thought of them every day since they left. All involved were in tears when they left.
I used to think that when people came to the Arizona Cowboy College that they going to benefit from their time at the ranch with me. As I get older I am starting to realize that they are coming to somehow make me better. Oh yeah I forgot, we were injury free for the week.
For more information got to: www.BLESMA.org
“Stay Well and Keep Riding!”
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