A Day Worthy of a Hero

A Day Worthy of a Hero!
Being part of the rodeo family has been an incredible experience for the past 4 years.  We have met so many awesome people who have become very special friends to us.  We have been part of some inspirational causes from cancer awareness to special needs children to our military and other service and support industries!  We have become extremely close to many of the cancer survivors, children, troops and all their families!
One of the best parts of everything has been being part of the celebrations of the survivors.  Being around strong, unique individuals is more inspiring than words can describe.
We have become close to one particular soldier and his family.  JD was 23 years old with a wife and infant daughter when he was critically injured in Afghanistan.  In fact, he was so critically injured he was ‘dead’ for 15 minutes.  He arrived at Brooks Army Medical Center missing both legs and his right arm.
Many of us would probably admit suffering that kind of loss would change us in so many ways!  One of the things we have learned about these outstanding survivors is that these injuries end up changing them in remarkable ways!  They end up encouraging others as they arrive on the 4th floor, where the Intensive Care Unit is housed.
JD has become a strong force in that encouragement process!  He has not allowed his ‘disability’ slow him down!  In fact, as my family tried to keep up with him recently it was obvious to me in a very brief time that my short legs were no match for his 4-wheel drive, all-terrain, camouflaged wheelchair.  I don’t even think it is politically correct to call that contraption a wheelchair!
JD is an avid hunter, rodeo fan, former bull rider, loving husband, son and father.  I could go on, but let me get to the current story.
While being part of the Extreme Makeover, Home Edition, Tacey became aware that JD was a huge fan of Tuff Hedeman.  Since Tuff is a personal friend of ours and Tacey has many things autographed by him, she asked permission to give JD one of her cowboy hats autographed by Tuff.  Of course, we granted her permission!
When JD received the hat, it was very obvious he was moved and proud of the hat (even though it didn’t fit his head!).  He immediately put it on and insisted on wearing it.  Through talk with JD and friends we learned the whole story.
JD rode bulls in high school.  He had been trying to convince his doctors that he could still ride!  He is so passionate about it, I want to believe him!  Who am I to doubt?  I am constantly telling Tacey she can do anything she wants to do and push her to do so!
We also found out JD was such a huge fan of Tuff Hedeman because of Tuff’s kinship and closeness to Lane Frost.  Knowing Lane’s parents had turned his tragic death into a ministry, knowing they had enormous hearts and knowing Tuff, an idea started to form.  Tacey and I started talking about instigating a meeting between JD, Tuff and the Frosts.
PLEASE do NOT give us credit for anything!  We allowed God to use us while we used a few relationships to bring some joy to a very exceptional warrior.  I made a couple of phone calls and let it go from there.  In fact, I thought it wasn’t going to happen and that the timing was just right.  Other friends involved in the mission were also having some trying times and agreed the timing probably wasn’t right.  Ha!  Who are WE to question God’s timing??
I got a call, message and email from a close friend at the CBR.  He was urgently trying to reach me.  Everyone in the CBR wanted to make the meeting happen; only they wanted to take it a step or two further!  Even though things had been happening in our lives and we couldn’t attend the event, they wanted to make all this happen at the Tuff Hedeman Championship Challenge Celebrating 20 Years event in Fort Worth on April 7.
The CBR has a new program where they honor veterans with the title of “Henry Rifles American Hero.”  Not only do they bestow the title on each hero, they interview him/her for a segment of their television program, honor the veteran during a bull riding and present him/her with a Henry Golden Boy rifle. 
I immediately called JD’s precious wife, Ashlee, to let her know Scott would be contacting her, I would make their hotel reservations and to keep me posted!  Until the big event, we were keeping it all top secret!  JD was NOT to know anything!
When everything was arranged, I told Tacey the plans.  My incredible girl who lives and breathes rodeo was so excited for JD!  She got tears in her eyes, not because she couldn’t attend to see her cowboys and witness this astonishing event, but because she was so happy for JD.  Michael and I immediately made the decision that we had to make some changes, including some personal sacrifices, to make sure Tacey could witness this once in a lifetime experience.  She was ultimately the one responsible for JD getting this honor and her selflessness was proof she deserved to be there.
The hardest part was probably Ashlee getting JD to Fort Worth, checking into the Omni Hotel and to the Stockyards without raising suspicion.  By the way, our excellent friends at the Omni Hotel sent a welcome basket up to JD and Ashlee shortly after their arrival and check-in.  Unbeknown to us, they sent Ashlee’s favorite soda and JD’s favorite snack!  Wow!  That is ONE of the reasons we love the Omni Hotel!
Our family was already at the Stockyards hanging out with some of our great bull riding friends.  JD and his family joined us during an autograph session where we were able to introduce him to some of the greatest bull riders in the world.  He was so happy to meet them!  Little did he know or suspect what else we had in store for him!
As we were visiting and exploring the Stockyards, he asked if there was a bull riding that night.  I told him yes, there was a bull riding and we were going to attend.  “In fact,” I told him, “The CBR headquarters are just down the street a couple of blocks.”
He looked at me with eyes wide and asked, “Do you think Tuff will be at the bull riding tonight?”  With a very straight face and even tone, I replied, “Well, he is normally there when it is a CBR event.”  Tacey said later it was a good thing she wasn’t part of that conversation!  She probably would have blurted out, “Well, duh!  It is the Tuff Hedeman Championship Challenge!”  Whew!  So glad she wasn’t part of the conversation.
JD then asked, “Do you think I might get to see or meet Tuff?”  Again, I tried to play it cool as I replied, “I will see what we can do.”  I really think I deserve an Oscar!!
We then headed to an area in front of the Stock Exchange where they were filming segments for the CBR show.  JD knew they were going to interview him, but really didn’t know why.  The cameraman nearly messed up when he mentioned the Henry Rifle.  JD was very confused.  I then told him that CBR had a new program where they presented a Henry Rifle to a veteran and they had chosen him.  He was still oblivious of the rest!
When he finished the interview, we then headed back to the front of the coliseum.  Tuff and his mom were visiting with a couple I immediately recognized.  I ushered JD over and had the great privilege of introducing him to Tuff Hedeman, Tuff’s mom, Clarise, AND Clyde and Elsie Frost, Lane’s parents.  JD was nearly speechless at that moment!
Tuff had to rush off to get ready for the event.  I told JD he would get to have pictures with Tuff later, but we needed to go ahead and take pictures with Mrs. Hedeman and the Frosts.  However, it didn’t stop there.  As incredible as the experience of meeting Tuff and the Frosts and getting honored by Henry Rifles and the CBR, the most incredible experience in my mind was that JD didn’t just meet Lane’s parents, but he got to VISIT with them for nearly an hour!!  It was so moving to listen to the 3 of them reminisce about Lane, bull riding and Lane’s legacy!  Wow!  I wish I had video-taped the whole conversation.  If Lane was looking down from Heaven, he had to be proud of the impact he had made on this young man!
We then entered the coliseum where we were ushered to special box seats on the front row!  Talk about up close and personal!  I knew we would all be sporting some arena debris by the end of the night.
I will have to ask forgiveness from all our bull riding friends that my focus was so much on JD and his experience that I have no recollection of scores or rankings!  I was very focused on the safety of each of them and watched closely to see that they exited the arena unharmed.  I just can’t tell you how well they rode!
Because of the setup of the Stockyards Coliseum, it was inconvenient to take JD onto the arena floor to make the presentation, so Tuff came into the stands to make it.  Tacey proudly stood behind JD as his family sat surrounding him.  As they told JD’s story, Tuff presented him with a gorgeous Henry Rifle.  I apologized to all of our friends if the pictures I was taking were blurry!  I admit I was crying and shaking so hard that I couldn’t really see what I was shooting!
The crowd gave JD one of the biggest and longest standing ovations I have witnessed.  I looked around and didn’t see a dry eye in the place!  Even JD was wiping tears after the cameras were turned off. 
When it was all said and done, JD was so moved by everything and couldn’t stop thanking us.  Again, I have to stress we did NOT do it!  It was all God!  We were just the instruments He chose to use.
The meeting with the Frosts and JD getting to visit with them was NOT planned.  It happened by ‘accident.’  JD being honored by the CBR and Henry Rifles was NOT what we asked to happen.  That was all from the CBR!  No one told the folks at the Omni Hotel JD’s favorite snack or Ashlee’s favorite soda.  They just sent those items by chance!  Having it happen on a week-end when JD and his family didn’t have plans and our family was able to change those plans to make was phenomenal.
Our family doesn’t believe in chance happenings or coincidences.  We believe everything happens for a reason.  God puts special people in our paths and our lives to help open doors and windows.  It is all part of His grand design!  We are just so thankful that He chooses to use us as part of that AMAZING PLAN!
Several times during the day, Michael and I looked at each other and said, “This is why we work so hard to do what we do!”  Believe me the blessings we receive are the best rewards we could ever hope to get!
Thank you Queens for Troops and Helping a Hero for allowing us to be part of the outstanding, important work you are doing for these American heroes!  Without you, heroes like JD would not be part of our lives!
At the end of the day, JD looked at me and said, “I will still do it all again.  If they would let me keep fighting, I would go back today.”
Special thanks to:  Tuff Hedeman, Scott Davis, and the rest of the CBR gang, Clyde and Elsie Frost, Henry Rifles and Omni Hotels for making this dream come true!
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