OEW Team Member call sign “Dependability” shares the team’s experience at last month’s OCR World Championship event at Kings Domain.
With the thoughtful leadership of OCRWC, we had the opportunity to be the charity partner this year. We were given the chance to execute the course on Sunday with a wounded warrior alongside.
Norbie Lara followed in the footsteps of his older brother and joined the US Army. He’s been deployed to Bosnia, Kuwait, and Iraq. On June 18, 2004, while, on combat patrol, a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) struck his vehicle. The RPG penetrated the firewall and severed his entire right arm. Shrapnel from the explosion also ripped through his body, lacerating his liver. Inhalation when the RPG exploded caused severe lung damage. Because of the proximity of the blast, Norbie also suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). When he was evacuated from the scene, Norbie slipped into unconsciousness and was later placed in a medically-induced coma. Norbie then awoke at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) in Washington, DC, clinging to life, unaware that two months had passed. On July 8, 2004, Norbie was awarded the Purple Heart.
Through lots of hard work, Norbie was finally able to breathe on his own, relearned how to walk, and even run. Norbie retired in 2006 and returned home to Visalia, Ca. He is currently the Director of A Combat Veteran’s Hope, which will serve Combat Veterans of all generations of the Central Valley of California.
About Operation Enduring Warrior
OEW most commonly is known for wearing full kit and military gear on the race course. This typically includes an Avon M50 gas mask. The Masked Athlete Team (MAT) are specially trained veterans who support our wounded veterans with the physical and mental adversity of extreme athletic challenges. The gas masks worn by the team are symbolic of the hardships our wounded veterans live with every day. The team is composed of active-duty and prior service men and women. We use a leadership trait as our callsign while under the mask. Our focus is square on the safety and well-being of our adaptive athletes.
Our 2014 OCRWC was spectacular. 2015 proved to be that equal. We’re deeply honored to have had both opportunities. We took this excellent opportunity to showcase the OEW mission in front of thousands of the world’s best athletes. The first objective is always safely. The second goal is to assist the adaptive athlete through any situation or obstacle that’s presented. The final objective is to spread awareness to other adaptive athletes. We focus on these objectives to grow OEW as an organization so we can assist more folks who might be struggling with finding their new purpose.
2015 OCR World Championships
The press conference and dinner on Friday was an incredible gathering of people and we knew we were very fortunate to have this opportunity. We can’t thank Adrian Bijanada and his team enough. We’re forever in your debt good sir.
After a successful Saturday of watching, talking, and encouraging others at the final obstacles we knew we were going to be in for a tremendous challenge come Sunday. We’d prospected and walked the course as best we could. We looked at everything, we discussed the challenges, we kicked around some ideas on execution. This was like no other and we knew we were in the midst of something really special. What we witnessed on Saturday was truly a remarkable experience that helped prep us for our team event on Sunday.
Watching some of the best athletes in the world cross the finish line, crush obstacles, and dominate … we knew we were in for a great event. The sheer physicality and athletic ability of these folks is unbelievable. We knew we had to perform. We’ve got heart, we’ve got teamwork, and we’ve got a mission to Honor, Empower, and Motivate.
We thought about things named The Destroyer, The Dragon’s Back, wait … the what? It was a long night …
Arrive early, unpack some gear, shake some hands and get final readies for our turn. Not necessarily scared or intimidated, but certainly butterflies in our stomachs. We were ready. We had a warrior named Norbie. We had a team. We had a purpose. We are OEW. We organized ourselves and we headed out.
Norbie leads the team to the start line. OEW teammate Chris Acord opened with an overview of who we are, what we do, how we aim to make a difference. The mic changed hands. The volume rose, the smashing voice of Coach Pain thundered through the speakers. You are powerful, you are strong, you will handle your business. Make some noise … MAKE SOME NOISE !!!
Cannon fire – BOOOOOOOM !!!
The team event means everything to us. With the later start time we knew we had our work cut out for us. In the spirit of teamwork and safety though it was certainly a blessing we knew we were benefiting from. We’re on this course for a different purpose. We knew our place and we did everything we could to make the OCR world hang around on Sunday and be witness to the grit, determination, and drive of one of American’s finest fighting men. Norbie Lara.
OEW teammate Chris Acord was course navigator. We are all aware of his talent, his diabolical sense of humor, and his the desire to go straight up the tallest of hills. This venue, the Garfield Griffiths design and OCRWC significance didn’t disappoint. Imagine going up Pinnacle being cold, hungry, wet and tired. Now do it with one arm. Ever consider climbing a 30 foot wall, now challenge yourself and do it one handed. This is exactly what Norbie faces at each and every obstacle and challenge.
Now imagine crossing a deep valley below supported by a single wire. We know you can do it, but can we? We can, we adapted, we did. YES we can. Norbie’s face at the end of that obstacle was priceless. You had to be there to see it, but for the next mile or so, it was evident that the challenge was both accepted AND smashed. Heart-rate about 180, but that’s a result of seeing that obstacle for the first time, the height, the challenge, knowing you’ve got one arm to use, and TRUSTING your teammates to keep you both calm and safe. I was so proud of that moment I can’t express it in words.
Every obstacle presented it’s own challenges. Challenges that our team must overcome. Overcome we did. Stand here, leg there, grab here, pull there. Toss, shove, hang on … Dragon’s Back? Yes sir.
After the Pinnacle we looked back, smiled, high fived, hugged and we shook our heads. Whew … that was a monster.
We pushed on and were met with this amazing black sorcery that was taking humans straight down the very mountain we had just climbed. How fast … who knows … who cares … do again do again !!! We locked arms at the slide and never looked back. We knew we were close. Finishing. After Pinnacle, after the slide, after some good course teamwork and some moments of sheer excitement we knew that the finish line was well in hand. We were close. We weren’t finished but we were getting there.
All day on Saturday, Norbie and the team coached athletes through the warped wall and cargo net climb. We had plenty of opportunity to watch it and learn its subtle ways. Our tent was directly across from this and we tried to apply these lessons we gave on Saturday to our own test on Sunday. After Skull Valley we faced this obstacle for the final time.
Norbie, this is all you my friend … all you. A quick shake of the head, a word of encouragement, head picks up. GO. There are plenty of great photos to show how courageous this warrior was when he drive his legs toward the wall and hit the top at full speed. This was electric. The crowd, the top of the wall, the teamwork to get us this far. This one was all Norbie. We started as a team and we finished as one. This weekend, like the 2014 OCRWC sticks out in my mind as a life changing, most proud moment for me. I can say honestly that the question of “tell me of a most proud moment” now has an answer that will last a lifetime.
Adrian, sir … we are indebted to you for this most humbling opportunity. I’m honored to have had the challenge of both 2014 and 2015 given to me. The memories will last a lifetime. To Norbie Lara – you are my hero, you are my friend, I’m proud to call you a brother.
Operation Enduring Warrior (OEW) is a veteran-founded non‐profit 501c3 whose mission is to honor, empower, and motivate our nation’s wounded veterans through a physical, mental and emotional rehabilitation. OEW is an entirely volunteer run organization.