I am the most unlikely GRT in the history of GRTs. A not remotely athletic woman in her mid-forties, afflicted with vertigo and pretty accident prone, I didn’t find GORUCK through the OCR community, long distance running, or other endurance events. I found GORUCK quite by accident, and I am so grateful for all the ways it’s changed my life.
In the winter of 2014, I was going through a difficult transition and except for social media, spending most of my time isolated. One day I saw a Ted Talk by Mike Haynie entitled “The Moral Obligation to Know our Veterans” and afterwards I couldn’t stop thinking about the story of a Marine veteran named Tim who’d said that since coming home he felt anonymous. The staggering suicide statistics kept me up at night. It troubled me so much, I decided to focus on what I might be able to do about it in my little corner of the world instead of wasting another day feeling sorry for myself.
I started by taking every opportunity to connect with Veteran communities that I could find. I joined my local Team RWB chapter with high hopes, but discovered the chapter near me ran a lot of marathons and I didn’t run at all. I downloaded a 5K app, jogged, and said yes to any volunteer opportunity I came across. I volunteered at air rifle tournaments, billiard tournaments and baited fish hooks at fishing tournaments for Paralyzed Veterans of America. Nearing the end of my couch to 5K app, I saw a post on the Team RWB page for a GORUCK Light: “If you can run a 5K, you can do this” it said. I googled GORUCK, and after discovering it was a veteran-owned business, I ordered a black GR1 and registered for my first event. I didn’t even think twice.
To say I was a fish out of water when I turned up for my first event in 2014 would be generous.
I made it to the end thanks to Cadre Matt Stoltz, a solid team, but especially because of my first battle buddy, Alex Miller. I finished, but it was ugly. When I got home I drank a shower beer and slept for 12 hours. I woke up 8 pounds lighter, looking like I’d been in a car accident. After breakfast, I signed up for another Light.
Between my first Light (Class 343) and my most recent Tough – the Tun Tavern event in Philadelphia, I’ve completed over 50 events in two countries and nine states. Along the way I’ve learned countless valuable lessons. Most importantly, that I need people and I am happiest when I’m part of a team. That the help I set out hoping to give someone else, was exactly the help I needed.
We all need bridges to each other to thrive. GORUCK was that bridge for me. It led to more connections with veterans and active duty military which ultimately led to my discovering and joining Travis Manion Foundation as the Senior Manager of the 9/11 Heroes Run 5Ks all over the world.
As soon as I found TMF, I was struck by how the missions of GORUCK and Travis Manion Foundation were perfectly aligned. “If Not Me, Then Who…” and “It’s Not About You” were the same message delivered in different ways: always put others before yourself. TMF’s mission to empower Veterans and Families of the Fallen and to strengthen the character of future generations was Building Better Americans. We added GORUCK Divisions to every 9/11 Heroes Run in 2018 and 2019 with tremendous success and also collaborated on Operation Legacy and the Manion WOD.
It was during the first 9/11 Heroes Run season that I started to receive effusive emails from grateful parents. Their children loved earning their patch and couldn’t wait to do it again. Those emails only increased over 2019. More than once I packed up old patches of mine and sent them off for the most enthusiastic parents to keep in a kitchen drawer for patching ceremonies. Always wishing I could do more, I talked often about how amazing it would be to have rucking events crafted just for kids, but there just wasn’t the time to make it happen.
In November of 2019, after 28 successful years, my husband had to close his home furnishings business. Patrick loves rucking, building businesses and kids so he came up with the idea of Ruck Kids. I came home from a business trip surprised to find him building a website while our dear friend Amelia McDaniel, a formative education professional, turning our ideas for rucks into amazing lessons for children.
These past six years have truly been transformative for me. It hasn’t always been easy, but there isn’t a single moment of this journey I would change. I count myself lucky beyond measure to be part of the GORUCK community. The friendships I have made here are the rarest of my life. To find myself now as a part of this Ruck Kids team with the goal to provide something meaningful for the youngest members of our GORUCK family is honestly humbling. For all of you who wrote to me over the last two years, thank you for sharing your stories, videos and photos of your little ruckers – you inspired Ruck Kids.
Ruck Kids is a ruck-based training program that keeps your kids active while honing their super powers like kindness, patience, and gratitude. Through June 30 use code GORUCK20 to save 20% on the first month of a Ruck Kids subscription. A portion of the proceeds from each Ruck Kids unit sold will be donated to the Travis Manion Foundation.
About the Author
Heather Williams is the Senior Manager of the 9/11 Heroes Run at the Travis Manion Foundation. A former model, longtime GRT, and native of Richmond, VA, she is a member of several ruck clubs because she loves them all.