“Its not what you can do, but what you can achieve for others”. This is the quote that runs through my mind every day. It started sometime in September. It was about a month after my surgery to my feet. I was told by my doctor to settle down and recover. So since I couldn’t run, I picked up cycling. I figured it would be easy, boy I was wrong. This is about the time I get a phone call from Active Heroes talking about The Eagle Rare Award competition. I told them sure lets do it. Then I told them my idea of riding across KY in a gas mask to get votes to PROVE to America how serious I am about this cause and fundraise for military veterans. We call it the Ride 4 The Fallen!!! Well, Active Heroes was on board but most people around me were hesitant. They said things like “That can’t be done” or “You wouldn’t be able to last that long on a bike”. To me these were words of extreme encouragement. I set out my training. My training got me as far as doing about 200 miles a week with my longest 1 day ride at about 62 miles. Then work got busy again, the cold weather came and I stopped riding. This was around October. So up to this point I had never ridden in the cold. I have done many things through my military career in the cold so I figured “Eh it wont matter”. Well to make sure I got with my trainer Brett. He told me a list of things I would need. Cycling pants that were windproof, thermal jersey with a wind breaker, wind breaker hat, gloves and a pair of lobster gloves along with slip-ons for my shoes. All of this was supposed to keep me warm and shielded from the elements. Boy was I wrong. So instead of cycling I ran and did my normal routine. The Jacobs ladder became my new friend. It was low impact and worked some of the same muscle groups.. So then Nov 3rd 2013 happened. I get an email from an old friend telling me that our friend SFC Forrest Robertson from our old unit had been killed in action. SFC Forrest Robertson, known by many “Rob”. He was a good man. I knew him as a SSG. We deployed together overseas. He was a good man even more a Husband, Father, Brother and above all…a hero.
I took this information like a heat round to my chest. This seemed to be a repetitive thing in my life. Constant notifications of friends becoming K.I.A. Then that night I get a phone call from by buddy SFC T. We talked and vented. Then came the question…..”what can we do”? That seemed to be the question that lasted through the night into the next day. I tell my buddy T. that im gonna come by his work. I swing by and I’ll never forget that look on his face. It was one that showed such sadness for the death of his best friend. We sat, talked…and that’s when its happened. I said “I’m gonna dedicate my ride in his name. I’m going to make sure the world will know who SFC Robertson was. I don’t care if its for just a few seconds, they will all know who he was and what he stood for”. This was my motivation. Though I had to keep this ride secret from America. It was hard to see SFC Robertsons family morn the death and I couldn’t tell them. The goal to keep this a secret was to hit America by storm. Get America to say “Where did this come from”. And boy did this happen. Flash forward to Jan 1 2014. I’m sitting in a hotel room with Active Heroes representative Troy Yocum, talking about the Retreat and whats going to be happening with it. We talked about all the veterans that this retreat will help and how we will save so many brothers and sisters in arms from the evil virus called suicide.
The sound of evil…the dreaded alarm clock. Its now 0430 2nd Jan 2014. I get up, drink my coffee then pause. I know today is the day. They day America will know who SFC Robertson was and who Active Heroes is. As we started the ride it was 0600 in Clarksville, Tennessee. It was complete rain. So within the first 5 minutes I was completely wet from head to toe. Then about 30 miles into the ride I stopped. My feet started to become so cold and wet that I had to change socks. I thought that if the weather kept this up I’m not sure how long I could do this. As I get ready to get back on my bike BAM!!! The snow starts coming down. The temp starts dropping rapidly. I thought to myself what did I get into. As I kept riding the weather kept getting worse. The winds picked up along with the dropping temps. Their were many times I asked myself why I was so crazy. Then I thought about Rob and all the people who said this couldn’t be done. The one thing about me is that im stubborn. I don’t quit. Why should it. My brothers and sisters in arms didn’t quit on me. Why quit on them. Then the lovely Kentucky hills came. All rolling hills. At this point it was so wet and cold and windy that every sprocket on my bike kept freezing up. At one point I could only ride in 2 gears. This made it extremely hard to climb the rolling hills. Then the cold started to hit me. Mostly my feet. They were always wet and cold. At one point I literally thought about Easy Company 506th during the battle of Bastogne. This motivated me more and more. Then I got to call my wife. This was motivation. She said what she normally says when I do crazy things like this. I did a “yas ma’am, and an I love you” and drove on. I knew what had to be done. At one point when Troy saw I was struggling he said “Hey bro America is really rooting for you. They all say you can do it”. Man was that like a second wind for me. Finally we made it to our stopping point. I ate, got to get warm and shower. Then I got on my phone and checked Facebook. I saw all the amazing comments Americans were saying. These were words of encouragement. So I went to Troys room and said “ I want to shoot a quick video to America. I want to thank them for the votes and comments but let them know this isn’t about me. This is bigger then me. This is About Active Heroes helping our vets”.
Once again the sound of evil…the alarm clock. Time to get up. But this time when I got up I wasn’t my normal Marc. I was stiff and in pain. I thought “Damn I’m getting old”. I looked at my ankle and it was bruised and swollen. I tell Troy and hes like “man its your call. I tell him give me a few and we will get back on the road. By now the temps dropped to 14 degrees with the winchill of 0. As I rode I realized I could get no water from my Camel Bak. It was completely frozen. A block of ice. I pulled over and threw it in the truck. Troys like “ do you wanna come in and warm up”? Me “nope lets ride”. So we went. Then I got to a point again where I couldn’t feel my toes, then my foot, then my ankle. I had to stop to warm them up. The day prior I made good ground so I could afford to keep stopping. The I get a phone cal from my buddy Al. “I’m on my way. I’m almost there”. Al was gonna lead me the last 45 miles into the Eagle Rare distillery. This meant a lot. Then I thought to myself “Damn, how many CEOs of a non profit would have actually done what Troy Yocum has done for me”? The answer is slim to none. This was like a pure motivation point. 45 miles form the finish line. I mean I made it this far through snow, sleet, rain, ice and 30 mph head winds. I felt I could do anything. Get back on the road and ride . And for some reason I got this feeling in my stomach. It kept growing worse and worse….in my mind I thought…”ummmm hello, I’m hungry. Can I eat one of these day”. So I ride my bike into the first restaurant I saw. Troy says “ we have to make time” I said “I’ll be done in 3 minutes”. And it took me less then 3 to finish my food. I was back on the road again. This time 15 miles from the finish line.
Finally, I make a left turn into Buffalo Trace. Then it was like a breath of fresh air. I think at this point I had tears in my eyes knowing I made it this far. But what was even more important was SFC Robertson’s name will live on forever. Active Heroes name would be known. The retreat would be known. Many people were impressed. But I explained to them that I am just a messenger. See throughout this who ride, I tried to keep my mask on in all pics. America doesn’t need to know who I am, they just need to know my cause. This was never about me. See to me 2 amazing things came out of this. 1 Active heroes got to show the world how they help our veterans and about there military retreat. 2 SFC Robertsons wife, aunts and uncles telling my how happy they were to know people were dedicating things to him. My goal is to motivate others. To show them that anything is possible. We ALL have demons inside of us, they try to make us quit. Its how we respond to these demons. I want Americans to know that I support them. I want people to know its ok to push yourself beyond your limits. Your body can go further then you think. I am blessed that I have a wonderful family and friends who support me, but above all I am proud to be an Active American. I am no hero. Our brothers and sisters giving their lives for this country are. They are the Active Heroes of America.
“Pain is temporary, but pride lasts forever.
Tough times don’t last, but tough men do”