Last Friday, September 11th 2015, the TW Staff had the opportunity and pleasure of partnering with EFNT (Entrepreneurs for North Texas), Carry the Load and Equest to honor U.S. troops past and present. The goal that day was to improve and make the Equest Horse Park facilities more handicap accessible while remembering the troops we've lost in conflict.
Equest offers many therapeutic services for veterans and their family through equine assisted activities and events. Carry the Load programs provide an interactive way for Americans to honor, remember and celebrate those lives lost protecting the US and it's citizens.
We gathered in the main arena and at 8:46am shared in a minute of silence during the time that the first plane struck the North World Trade Center Tower. This was followed by the Marine Corps presenting the colors, and the 400+ volunteers joining together to sing the national anthem and say the pledge of allegiance. As I looked out on the hugely diverse crowd of people, I felt an overwhelming sense of unity and reverence.
Clint Bruce, Co-founder of Carry the Load and former Navy Seal, introduced himself and spoke about his time in the military and why he founded the organization. As he referenced the large cardboard sheets depicting photos and biographies of U.S. solders who have lost their lives, he emphasized that each made the ultimate sacrifice for the U.S. and we must share the responsibility of "carrying the load" of honoring their memories. He said the best way of doing this was joining together to volunteer, and improve the livelihoods of those in our community. He ended by saying "They believed we were worth it. So let's be worth it."
After the emotional opening ceremony we split into groups, each designated to a certain work project. Some were building wheelchair-accessble ramps, others were clearing debris from the riding trails. Veterans wearing red shirts, Dallas PD and FD joined in the efforts, and were stopped every few minutes to shake hands with someone thanking them for their service.
For a brief respite from the hot Texas sun, volunteers were welcomed into the stables at Equest to meet the four-legged ambassadors and feed them apple and carrot slices. I attended the "Horsemanship 101" course, which is offered to every new volunteer and participant at Equest. I entered a corral with 20 or so fellow volunteers and learned the ABC's of horses and the various services and programs Equest offers to the disabled and veterans. This astounding facility and herd of 47 horses is located just 15 minutes from Downtown Dallas!
While the work was physically straining, and the heat relentless, the camaraderie and positivity shared by all served as ample motivation. The amount of work completed in only a few hours was remarkable, and as Freedom Day 2015 came to a close the organizers remarked how all goals and expectations for the day were vastly exceeded.
As for me, I left feeling greatly touched and proud of my community, and reminded of the extraordinary good that can be done when we come together.