Friday, March 15, 2013

GORUCK and St. Baldrick's

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In yet another departure from my normal subjects, I would like to talk about two fantastic organizations. 

The first, GORUCK, is both a company that produces field gear for soldiers and some other apparel and equipment, and also an organization sponsoring several events designed to, as their website says, "teach others lessons learned on teamwork, leadership, and survival."  These events include the GORUCK Challenges, which range from the "Light" challenge to "Selection," testing the participants' mettle with some of the training that the GORUCK cadre, all US Army Special Forces (aka Green Beret) veterans or active duty members, had undergone in their careers.  These events were started, according to the company's founder, as a way to test their new "rucks," or the packs that soldiers carry their gear in.  While I am nowhere near in good enough shape to attempt one of these (not even the 4-5 hour long "Light" challenge), I am in more than good enough shape to attend one of their non-physical events, "War Stories and Free Beer."  This event is exactly what it sounds like; it's a bunch of people telling their stories of war and the military, with a lot of free beer. 

GORUCK patch given to each attendee at War Stories and Free Beer
Held at the Crossfit Boston gym, about 100 people (having sold out the tickets to the event, which were $10 to cover costs) gathered to drink some PBR and hear the stories of some of our best trained soldiers.  Speakers, of which there were five, were a major in the Green Berets, an Israel Defense Forces recon sniper who trained American snipers in urban combat and ended up unofficially becoming a patrolling member of a Marine sniper unit in Fallujah, Iraq, two enlisted Green Berets, and an enlisted member of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), the elite "Night Stalkers" of Black Hawk Down fame.  Their stories ranged from poignant (one Green Beret's description of a mission to rescue a kidnapped 11 year old boy named Wi'am) to hilarious (the description of shitting his pants during that unexpectedly long mission).  The IDF soldier's story of losing his brother Marines (because he did, in effect, become one of them) to a pair of IEDs, that he barely survived, was heart-wrenching, and he could not even complete that part of his War Story as it was still, after all this time, too painful for him.  The stories of embedding in Afghan villages told by the major and one of the enlisted soldiers were hilariously different, as the officer talked about the positives and how he was proud of what he did, and the enlisted man discussed his boredom and the immature (his word, not mine) activities that took place during these missions.  After each story, though, I felt like I, as someone who has never served in the military, had a better sense of what these men and women go through and experience, and I had a really great time.  If you get the opportunity to attend one of these events, do so; it is a really, really fantastic opportunity.  A lot of the money that GORUCK makes, through donations, sales, and event fees, goes to charities that work with veterans and military personnel.


St. Baldrick's Foundation is straight up charity.  Devoted to curing childhood cancer, St. Baldrick's events are all about shaving your head.  As their website says, "It's an easy and fun way to raise money for a very serious cause--like a walkathon, but without the blisters."  I have a few charities that I really care about and donate to every year, and this is the one that, no matter how short money may get, will never go a year without getting something from me.  Many of my friends participate through their work, and I have a rule; whoever asks first gets my donation.  This year I donated in honor of someone very near and dear to me, the woman who ran the daycare I went to as a child, who is like a member of my family and who spoiled me rotten, and who is suffering a second time from brain cancer.  In FY2012, 82% of the money raised (over $33 million) went to research, 16% went to fundraising efforts, and just 2% went to management and other expenses.  If it comes in, it goes out; they do not hold on to money, they put it to work.  Compare this to most other charities, and you will not see many who come even close.

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