How the GORUCK Challenge and The Special Operations Community Inspire Me to be a Better American


Photo from the GORUCK website. Friday night, August 16, at 2100, a small group of men and women will assemble at O'Bryant Square, Portland, OR, for their GORUCK Challenge. After getting checked in, these inspired and slightly crazy individuals will begin this 12 hour event with a welcome party that is anything but welcoming.  They will cover approximately 20 miles through the night, wearing roughly 40 lbs on their back, carrying a team weight of 25 lbs, and bearing an American flag.

I will be one of the inspired crazies that night.

Our team decided to carry 25 lbs of rice as our team weight.  Many will carry an extra can of corn or green beans in their ruck.  After the Challenge is over, they will donate the food to Cityteam Portland, my Recovery Center and Homeless Shelter.

Here is a note I wrote the team on Thursday:

Guys, I want to thank you so much for choosing rice as our team weight. I also want to thank those that are carrying an additional can of food in their ruck. Those acts seem small, but they can make a big difference.

I wanted to share a few of the thoughts I'll carry with me during our Challenge.

O'Bryant Square is a place where some of the men in my residential recovery program would go to meet their meth dealers. If you go there in the afternoon, you'll see businessmen and women in suits eating next to homeless men and women passed out on the benches. You'll see men digging through trash to find a half eaten sandwich or a can they will redeem for a nickel.

Despair would be easy in those circumstances, but I choose not to despair. Carrying 25 lbs of rice and a few cans may not seem like much and, in the grand scheme of things, it isn't. What is more significant is what we and GORUCK represent.

GORUCK is founded and staffed, as you know, by members of the special operations forces. Many, if not most, are Green Berets. One of the primary missions of the Green Berets is force multiplication - working by, with, and through indigenous populations as they seek freedom from tyranny in their own countries. To do so, the Green Berets equip these freedom fighters to fight a better fight against entrenched oppressive regimes.

This is what we do at my recovery center. We equip men who decided they didn't want to live under they tyranny of drug addiction and alcoholism to throw off their addictions and enter life as free, responsible members of society. We equip them to go back to their enslaved friends and help them become free as well. As we do so, one man at a time, we deplete the numbers of the oppressed and oppressor and mobilize them to be champions of freedom on the streets and parks that you and I will ruck on this Friday night.

In carrying our team weight full of rice and in carrying those extra cans of corn and green beans, you become part of the fight for a better Portland.

The fight to be free isn't easy - whether from the tyranny of addiction or the tyranny of an oppressive regime. Similarly, our Challenge will not be easy. As we hurt, in some small way we can remember the struggles the men go through in their pursuit of a different life, a life pursuing meaning rather than a needle.

By doing this challenge, in some small way we honor their commitment to embody what it means to be American - the brave who fight to be free. And we honor the Special Operations Forces community for inspiring us to fight this fight at home as they are fighting it around the world.

That is what I will remember every time I look at the American Flag during our challenge and every time I have the honor of bearing our team weight.

Ruck on!

JournalPaul Watson