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October 12th The Home Stretch

I woke so excited, knowing I will be heading into Sarasota, FL, and my final destination. It’s bittersweet, happy and sad emotions were running through me. After an exciting five and a half months traveling across America meeting the most wonderful Americans, Veterans and First Responders, yet knowing the trip is coming to a end. I know in my heart that I have come away a different person.

I packed up and got Johnabilt ready for his last Putt into Sarasota to Der Dutchman for our Welcome Home Ceremony.

As I putted down route 301, I played Amy Assister’s rendition of the  National Anthem on my last day. It was so fitting and appropriate after such an incredible journey.

I putted along and had a lot good memories from this summer running through my mind. There is so much good in America and we just don’t hear about it.

Getting closer, and as I crossed the Manatee River and into Sarasota County, my heart started ticking faster. As I got closer knowing I will be seeing my family. I have missed them and the OSC Board Members that did so much for me, with all the planning and making sure I was safe and comfortable.

I never shared this before, but OSC set up a hospital visit in Red Lodge, MT, for me to get a shot of cortisone for the pain in my hip.

I first of all, Thank God for His guidance and safety along the way and for all the prayer warriors out there that prayed daily for our safety. I felt your prayers.

I crossed route 70 and putted west to Verna Road south got Fruitville Road west. I had 10 miles to arrive to the Shell Station where we were staging for the rest of the 7 miles to Der Dutchman restaurant. We had a number of escorts lined up to make this final treck.

As I was putting down Fruitville RD, I felt myself starting to swell up with emotional.

I arrived at the Shell Station and Ben Knisely had everything organized. The Sinclair News station was there out of West Palm Beach and they were recording me on the way in.

Cindy McGrew Founder and CEO of OSC arrived to ride with me the final miles. We said a prayer and both said that we knew we would soon be filled with emotions and the final miles in we for sure would need a box of tissues.

This way I had someone to cry with me.

As we were heading down the final miles, Ben Knisely leading the way on his 3 wheeled Harley, followed by a fire truck and then Johnabilt. Behind me was Fred Helmuth and Levi Beachy on their tractors. They flew down from Arthur, IL, to see me putt in. Milt Helmuth back of them in his truck with American flags proudly flying high. Milt drove down from Georgia to see me putt in. Behind him was the group of Police motorcycle group called the Defender’s.

As we got closer, we could see all the signs and my family and a large group of people including local Sheriffs and Firemen.

At banner my family was holding up, I saw my sister Barb and Frank holding up a banner. As I turned into Der Dutchman, there was a large blue banner that OSC got made to welcome me home. I couldn’t hold it in any more. I saw several of our broken Veterans there and I broke down. I looked over and so was Cindy. We cry well together! We felt Blessed from the warm Reception. After speaking with a number of news media, we stepped inside and had a nice lunch.  OSC and I got to thank everyone and share about our mission.

I just want to thank everyone that came out and I am sorry I didn’t get to shake more hands I was in a daze. I was wishing I could have shaken the Police Officers and Fireman that came. Hoping they know how appreciative we are to have them there.

OSC shared a number of gifts and a picture of Johnabilt up at MT Rushmore which I will treasure.

One person really surprised me. Jeremy Jackson flew down from Pittsburgh, PA, he is our Veteran who presented me his Purple Heart on the first trip and is also quite the artist. He drew a picture of Johnabilt and myself and presented to me.

The 2019 journey came to an end, but the mission must go on. I want to continue to help and bring awareness for those who are willing to sacrifice for my Freedom.

You can go to Operation Second Chance, and see all the events and continue to donate. Every dollar will help a Veteran or First Responder.

We will never experience that true Freedom until we are willing to donate time or money to help those that our willing to sacrifice for our Freedom. When we do that only then can we truly be free.

(PS) I would like to share an experience that I only shared with my daughter. I didn’t want anyone to worry and I decided to wait until I got to Sarasota, to let the Team know. It was a miracle from God and it could of been worse.

It happened south of Fort Worth, TX, a 100 miles in and 40 miles north of Crawford, TX.

I pulled into a campground around 1 pm. It was 108 degrees outside and I couldn’t wait to get settled in the camper with air conditioning and take a nap and then get up and work on some maintenance on the rig. When it was that hot I used to go out for a little while and run back in and cool off between jobs.

My one camper tire needed air so I went out and hooked up my air hose. I didn’t want to put my kneed on the stones they were hot,so I bent over and put some air in and when I got up, I pushed on my left foot and my hip popped out of socket and I went down on the hot stones. I slid myself to the back of the camper and I could only see one other camper with a car beside it. It was on the Monday and all the campers left Sunday night except this one camper.

I started yelling for help. Looking down, I could see my hip ball was pushed out to the side and it hurt every time I tried to move. After about 30 minutes of calling for help and fire ants crawling over me and biting me, I could not reach down to brush them off. I finally saw a lady coming out of the camper and running over and saying that she works at a nursing home and was there to help. All the time, she thought I crawled under there to work. She called the ambulance and was so kind to go in the camper to get my phone and lock the camper up. She crawled up in Johnabilt and pulled the keys and locked the cab.

In no time, the ambulance came and said there is a  small Hospital just up the road but I said that I needed a good Orthopedic Hospital and they said then we better take you to Waco, TX. It was about 40 miles west, but I needed to go there and I didn’t know how long I would be in there.

They took x-rays and soon the Orthopedic Dr came in and said I am pretty hefty, I think with the help of three nurses I think I can pop that hip back in. They put me out and when I came around two hours later it was in, so glad I didn’t have to stay overnight. They wanted to keep me, but I told them I had an event I needed to get to.

The lady that found me called the campground owner and they came to pick me up. Bless their hearts, they drove 40 miles to bring me back to the camper.

I was thinking about staying there another day but I had an event in Crawford, TX, the next evening and it was only 40 miles away. I was find just a little sore. I decided to head to Crawford the next day and I crawled back in bed a couple hours before the event.

I was fine but I was very careful the rest of the trip, not to push my foot out to the side, which is a no no for a hip replacement.

As I laid there in pain from the hot stones and the heat, and with all the red aunts inviting all their friends to come have a warm meal. I starting thinking about our Veterans who are taught to ‘suck it up’ and adapt and move on and they have to deal with temperatures more heat than 108 degrees. More like 140 or more and they have a real enemy to be concerned with and try to hide from. Those red aunts were painful and if I could have reached them, I could have brushed them off, but the trouble was that I couldn’t reach them. I laid there thinking, this is nothing compared to what many of our Veterans and First Responders go through.

I thank God for watching over me and it could have been a lot worse.

My hip did fine the rest of the trip it was just a freak accident. I have been to my Doctor here in Sarasota, said he the hip looks fine it was just the position that I was in that caused it to pop out. He wants me to do some physically therapy to strengthen the muscles that hold the hip in.  I felt God’s Angels watching over me during the whole trip, and your prayers lifted me up each day. God Bless each one of you.