Back in my Army days I was an attack helicopter pilot in the Air Cav. By default, I love to tell stories…bear with me.
Back in the spring of 1993, I was a West Point cadet preparing to graduate in a few months. I remember (though the circumstances have grown fuzzy) a conversation that our Commandant was having with a tour group on campus. At the time, BG Robert Foley was one of three remaining soldiers on active duty who had been awarded the Medal of Honor. He was describing the dedication that is groomed into young cadets, and how that dedication consistently shines in generation after generation of Army leaders coming out of West Point. “They will never stop. They will never quit.” That was a repetitive theme that he shared through examples of moral & physical challenges that grads had faced. It was quite stirring.
Stirring to the point that his theme became kind of a calling card for my dedication years later. I was overseas in commend (D/1-6 Cavalry) when I was first diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1999. Although my Army career ended in a flash, my physical recovery has taken much longer, I continue to come to terms with being told "you have MS".
I have been able to fight back, though. Through the amazing medical treatment that I receive from my doctors at the VA Hospital, my health is ‘stable’. Through the constant love and guidance from my friends and family, I have been able to maintain my daily life. All the time, the support from advocacy groups like the National MS Society (NMSS) have kept me prepared (for today & whatever may happen next)!
A few years after first getting sick, I was healthy enough to ride my first MS150 (now bikeMS) for the National MS Society (2003 – Pittsburgh Allegheny Chapter). It enabled me to progress my physical recovery and to give back to support those who had helped me since diagnosis. I met my wonderful wife and she joined me the next year. Ever since, we have been participating in NMSS bike rides everywhere we have lived.
The theme of our battle every year is simple:
It will never stop….nor will we
It will never quit….nor will we
This is why we ride
Brie and I are preparing for our third year riding with the Oregon Chapter of the NMSS; I cannot believe this will be my eighth year! The two-day event is so much more than just a bicycle ride. For Brie and me, Christmas comes during the bikeMS weekend!
Because of the ride, I have to train year round. That helps me focus my MS therapy. When I am stricken more with my disease, I look to our mantra. Never Stop…Never Quit. When I lost my vision for a while in one eye, I put on an eye patch, went to the VA for treatment and kept on training. Never Stop…Never Quit. Early last year, my arm lost more strength and I could no longer hold on to the bike handle bars. So there I was, a 37-year old man learning how to ride a bicycle with my new recumbent! Never Stop…Never Quit.
The ride gives me a reason to reach out to friends of long ago. I talk with COL(R) John Brier, who graduated with the West Point Class of June, 1943 (50 years before I graduated). Every year, he sends me a very shaky handwritten note with a clear message to be strong!
The special bond felt riding with supporters, friends and our MS family is amazing. Our team, Team Amulet, spends all year planning, preparing, fundraising and training. When the ride comes, we celebrate with other teams and ouir supporters. I share my MS story, but more valuable are the MS stories that I hear from all of my other friends with MS. We talk about the challenges we face, treatments to help, and ways to cope. Most important, we talk about all of the efforts we have to get closer to the hour when no one will have to hear the words, "You have MS."
Then there is the ride! 10, 30 , 75 or 150 miles. Anything that we can do is what the goal is. I always want to do it all, but some years my body just will not let me.
That’s OK, because there is always next year. Never Stop…Never Quit!