Cliff Hudson wrote -Good morning/afternoon/or night (choose which best applies),
I am Cliff Hudson, (Sgt/USMC) and Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom Veteran. As some of you know, I will be competing in my first Ironman Competition this November in Florida. An Ironman consists of 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bicycle ride and a marathon 26.2-mile (42.2 km) run. All in the same day. Seriously. Stop looking at me like that.
I want to let you know about the biggest reason I am able to chase this dream (outside that of my wife and family that is. My wife and kids are the eternal 'carrot' that keeps me climbing up every mountain). Before I do that, I need to give a little background on where I have come from.
After getting back from Iraq, I found that I brought combat injuries back with me as well. Piled on top of just trying to readjust from combat to home were mental and physical injuries. Issues like traumatic brain injury and nerve issues in my neck and back. Iraq was a busy place for us, but I got to run with some of the best the Marine Corps had to throw into the fight. Marines like David Ritz, Eric Calkins, Brent Boek, and Steven Ribuffo are the reason I got to come home and now have have a family that includes my wife, two girls and a new baby brother.
Until about three years ago I felt isolated and didn't talk about the problems I brought home from Iraq. Things like nightmares, numbness, and feeling like I was just going through the motions of life all combined to leave me wondering "what happened to the Squad Leader who ran down the streets of Ramadi, Iraq?" I was on auto pilot and couldn't figure out how to dig myself out.
Then I was given a bicycle and went on a ride.
I received the bike from the Arkansas Freedom Fund. The Arkansas Freedom Fund is a 501c3 organization diligently working to provide veterans of all eras and backgrounds, residing in the state of Arkansas, the opportunity for recreational rehabilitation and reintegration through cycling, golf, fishing, hunting, and community service. All donations go directly back to the veterans they serve through the equipment, events and services provided. The people who serve on the board do so without salary or pay and the vast majority are themselves Veterans. For them, this is truly a labor of love.
Since that day when they handed me a bike I have gone from century rides, Olympic Triathlons, to the upcoming Ironman. They allowed me the opportunity to remind myself just what things I am capable of. Allowed me to stir a fire that does not accept 'getting by'.
If you are an individual who is looking for an avenue to support returning veterans through recreational rehabilitation and public service, please consider donating to this organization. I am one story out of many that has been inspired by the opportunity they provide.