Veterans Day, is a day to honor our Veterans, past and present, for their service to our Nation. This year Veterans Day fell on 11/11/2017 the same day as the Charlotte Marathon. Here is how the men of F3 Nation and SPEED FOR NEED chose to honor our veterans… 5 of them in total, who served in WW2 and the Korean War. These veteran Track Commanders were piloted by their Drivers, all F3 Military Veterans themselves, and #Royalty. Gnarly Goat (Lake Norman), SS Minnow (MECA), DeerTick (Metro), Apache (Rock Hill), Moonshine (Metro), and DREDD (Nation). Here is their experience… Thank you all for your service. And can’t wait to do this again net Veterans Day. (watch event video link : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egFnEwhckIM )
LEG #1: Gnarly Goat and WW2 Veteran Gene Blackmon (US Navy)
Music. Nervous smiles. Handshakes and fist bumps. Cold fall air. Flags cracking in a stiff breeze.
The atmosphere in the pre-race marshalling area reminded me of Pier “Zulu” at Charleston Naval Base just before ships got underway for deployment. Where were we going? What adventures awaited us? Would we survive???
I spied my racing partner Gene Blackmon (US Navy ’45-’46) handling a few media interviews like a pro. He hopped in the chair, and with the pre-underway checklist complete, we headed to the starting line with all turbines online.
At the starting line we were surrounded by an eager cadre of F3 pax standing by like tugboats ready to roll, push, and whatever else it took to get through leg 1. The ruckers shoved off ahead of us like a vanguard as we bounced, hopped and yelled to keep warm.
The starter counts us down and we’re off! Underway! Shift colors! Sound one long blast on the ship’s whistle as we joined the outbound traffic separation scheme. USS SPEEDFORNEED Departing! All ahead FLANK!
Hard left rudder! Right full rudder! Tool Time takes the conn. Running downhill with the current increases our speed over ground. “I’m givin’ it all I’ve got Cap’n! She can’t take much more!”
Now a hill. Prepare to grapple! The push-crew heaves to and we give ‘er hell. WE HAVE NOT YET BEGUN TO FIGHT!
The sea lane is crazy with traffic. Left full rudder! Hard right rudder! We’re Leaving overtaken traffic to our starboard side. Make a hole! Sound the collision alarm! Speed for Need coming through!
Big hill to our first port of call. Damn the incline Gridley! Full speed ahead!
Now we’re in port! What a welcome. Cheers! Laughs! Smiles! Hugs!
The battle goes on. A quick, no-nonsense change-of-command between Gene and Spencer. The USS SPEED FOR NEED is back underway and over the horizon in a jiffy.
Leg 1 complete. We know the Leg 2, 3, 4 and 5 crews will do their part too. We’re safe and sound. Mission complete. We smile. We share knowing handshakes. We did it together and we will remember it with a great deal of pride. Because that’s what veterans do. God bless the United States of America. Goat sends.
LEG #2: SS Minnow and World War 2 Veteran Derek Nichols (US Navy & Royal Navy)
Derek Nichols is a veteran of Her Majesty’s Royal Navy (UK) and served as an aircraft mechanic aboard aircraft carriers in the Royal Navy. I met Derek on the Wednesday before the race and enjoyed swapping ‘flight deck’ stories with him, as I also was an aircraft mechanic during my time in the US Navy. The UK has a long and storied naval heritage, and Derek is very knowledgeable of that legacy and proud to have been a part of it. JAG brought Derek to exchange zone 1, Christ Episcopal Church, right on time. It was a brisk morning, but as expected, Derek was prepared and excited to participate. Numerous F3 Brothers joined us as our Band of Brothers wheeled south on Providence Road proudly flying both Old Glory and the Royal Navy flags! Derek thoroughly enjoyed the many high-fives and accolades he received from runners and spectators. Pushing Derek was a breeze on the flat and downhill sections, but challenging on the up-hills for this lean runner. No problem! Several Brothers jumped in along the 5.8 mile route to keep our pace in the sub 8 minute per mile range. We pulled into exchange zone 2, on Euclid Ave, to boisterous cheers from the crowd. Derek thanked everyone in our group and told us it was a very memorable event for him.
LEG #3: DeerTick and Korean War Veteran Don Hunt (US Navy)
What an honor to get to spend time with my new friend, Tin Can Sailor Don Hunt. This was my first time
pushing a Speed for Need chair so there was a little anxiety when our leg got started. “How heavy is this thing?” About a mile in, even Mr. Hunt noticed the labored breathing right behind him. But with F3 brothers all around sharing the load, encouragement from Mr. Hunt, and overwhelming support all along the course, the five miles went by fast. In fact, the last few hundred yards went particularly fast. Almost uncomfortably fast. While I hope I looked like I was finishing strong, in reality my legs were spent, we were going downhill, and I was just trying to hang on and bring Mr. Hunt into the exchange zone under some level of control. I will certainly never forget this experience. I would like to offer a very sincere thank you to the veterans who came out to spend some time with us and celebrate our great nation on a chilly Saturday morning.
Leg #4: Moonshine & Apache and WW2 Veteran Spencer Anderson (US Army)
Segment no. 4 began by buckling our man Spencer Anderson into the SPEED FOR NEED chariot of fire. Deertick off-loaded his veteran; our veteran was in; and, it was game-on. Bad news: door gunner, shotgunner wild man Apache was in hot pursuit with Army flag unfurled, pole-mounted and snapping in the wind. Two fundamentally important thoughts about Apache: One, like all aviators Apache has no filter, no regulator, and no volume control; and two, Apache’s nonstop verbal torrent is now, if not before, legendary. Apache’s mojo makes Dredd’s church mouse squeak sound lame. Apache’s got some pipes. Little did Spencer know, Spencer was on for the ride and in for a talkin’. 83-year-old Spencer remembered late 1950s Army life in southern Japan as a cryptographer…two years and nine months, to be exact. Crypto confused Apache as either archaeology- or necrophilia-related Army work, I gathered. By then, Spencer’s storytelling was competing with Apache belting out Army marching cadence in his best Sinatra voice. Our veteran suffered with polio before being inducted into the Army, and we all remembered basis training, drill sergeants, and getting his trainee head right. Although for Spencer, his polio-stricken body would not fully cooperate. Apache, being an aviator and having never done PT, he understood nothing of the conversation about PT and getting you head right. But Apache did sing louder. Spencer remembered coming home “broke” and having to go to work, Spencer remembered trying the seminary but Greek and Hebrew were too much; and, Spencer charmed the crowd at every high-five, at every pleasantry extended to every fan on the race course. Apache propelled the chariot for a dangerous period to the fear and trepidation of passenger and ground crew. Apache’s version of a gentle turn was full-blown wheelie. By the endpoint in the journey, both Spencer and Apache were shaking hands, kissing babies, and influencing bystanders. Cryptographer. Aviator. Tanker. What a threesome! Our man Spencer was and is a fine representative of that long line of service and sacrifice. Apache and I, we were just glad to be his footmen.
Leg #5: DREDD and WW2 Veteran Frank Polito (US Army)
I have to admit I was dubious about my first go as an SFN/Pusher. Not that I don’t like the idea or think it’s anything less than great Community IMPACT. What gave me pause was the question of whether our veterans would enjoy being SFN/Riders. I mean, it was a cold morning to be sitting passively in a SFN/Cart being pushed by a gang of lunatics through the streets of Charlotte.
Those doubts were blown away by the first look I got at the SFN/Rider who had the leg before mine. The old soldier was clearly ecstatic. The weather didn’t matter, the crowd didn’t matter, nothing mattered—Oh To Be Alive!
And my SFN/Rider was no different. 93 years old, a WWII Army vet who had ridden a machine-gun across Germany chasing Hitler into his final corner, Frank was fired up from the moment we strapped him in. My rough plan had been to take it out at about a 9m pace and trim that up to about 8m by the last mile so we came in with the flame turned up just a bit. Then, take some bows like the country gentleman I am and move on back to the ranch.
I dropped that plan right after Frank and I passed our first runner in the first 100 feet and Frank yelled out Geronimo!—raising his arms to the sky like we had just knocked out a Nazi tank. I knew at that moment that I was going run the next six miles with everything I had—the least I could do given what Frank had done for me.
So I did. I ran so hard that could barely creep the SFN/Cart on the course. Frank and I knocked down about 20 cones passing runners who didn’t know we were coming (despite Frank’s yelling to get out of the way.
By the time I came chugging up Stonewall into the last half mile I was spent, while Frank seemed to be getting stronger. It occurred to me that it must have seemed funny to the spectators watching one old guy pushing another old(er) guy up the hill with the Fighting Mongol running behind him with a GoPro and a crazy look on his face. Who the heck are those guys?
Standing there at the finish line, heaved over and trying not to Splash Merlot, the Mongol put something small and metallic in my hand and stood there grinning that Mongol smile.
“What’s this Mongol?” I asked hm.
“It’s the medal Dredd. It’s Frank’s medal. You’re supposed to give it to him.”
When I reached out to Frank to hand him the medal I saluted him. I didn’t really think about it, it’s just what came naturally. This man was a warrior 70 years ago and he was a warrior still.
Great day. God Bless America.
Gnarly Goat (Lake Norman)
SS Minnow (MECA)
Apache (Rock Hill)
<published by JRR Tolkien on behalf of the SPEED FOR NEED F3 Military Veterans Crew>