I was able to spend the last night in the city, but in a very nice Hampton room with a comfy bed that was gifted to us. It was amazing! The boys were able to swim and play in the pool 3 times and were tired. After bringing them home I decided to make the final food and water run for the 10 day mission.
It was a hot day and I found that it was best to deliver supplies after about 7:00 pm, but before dark. This is a prime time when it is not too hot and is not dark yet. Many people are in migration. I found spots in the city to deliver all kinds of supplies in an efficient and effective manner. I feel we did a lot of good for these people in some of the hottest weather we get.
Upcoming needs will be blankets, jackets, backpacks, and socks. Despite your views or opinions, or even mine, people will struggle with sleeping in a house or even a dry place this winter despite all we do. Some people will sleep outside, but we can make sure they at least survive it. Donate blankets for a more impactful next step in the mission to help people be comfortable.
In planning future acts, I would love to do something for the homeless one weekend a month and next year plan for 2 weeks of service. So for next month I would like to pass out blankets and clothing items. I have hygiene bags to pass out and water is always needed. Be prepared to see the Blazer of Glory in the streets of Chattanooga doing good for other people.
I think the Fallen 5 would be proud of the 2019 mission. The final act of the Fallen 5 Drive is to dip our tires into the river as a way to end the mission until next year. It is always a relief to complete a tough assignment. We were successful in achieving change for many people in Chattanooga because of your support! Thank you for the support!
This was day 2 without water in Chattanooga which seemed ironic since we were passing out waters all week before, now everyone needed it. I noticed places the previous night that had plenty of water, but it would or could reach a critical level of need. I decided to purchase an additional 120 Little Debbie snacks and 4 more cases of water to pass out.
This day I was bringing 2 of my boys, Owen and Everett who are 7 and 5 to help. The first time they went with Daddy they made peanut butter and jelly and passed out waters. When your children assist you must always be considerate of their needs, and I knew they could be very helpful when I was in town. They got to see what helping people is all about and I hope to teach them to be responsible in their communities for others in need.
It didn’t take long to efficiently disperse what we had. The cooler only holds so much water and ice so when I refill it for a second time that batch is not as cold. I always feel that I could do better. We would need a much larger cooler or just have the city put in water fountains.
My aim is to make common sense application to implement particularly useful and impactful tools for improved daily life. We can simply install water fountains, public restrooms, and public showers on many different levels. Either temporary or permanent, on a case by case or first come basis. There are a multitude of simple, quick, and relatively inexpensive solutions that are proven.
Until these things are started, the best option is some way is to hand out water in plastic bottles and bagged food from a truck.
At this point in the Fallen 5 Drive I spent every night out in the streets either in the truck, on the ground, or in a friend’s car with more leg room. I didn’t anticipate having so many supplies for myself and feeding or watering about 50 people per day. It was quite a challenge to have all that packed in there and lay comfortably. Also, working out during the trip didn’t help with my comfort levels! In other words, I was growing tired. The weather was great except for one day when it rained for about an hour and I had to use the tarp roof.
This day was Friday the 13th and it was a full harvest moon as well! This was going to be a special day and evening. Each Friday any city livens up from people getting off after a long weekend. Tourists also flourish the city seeking all Chattanooga has to offer.
This day was special because Chattanooga was out of water! Late Thursday evening the 3 foot water main burst causing the water for the entire city to be out! This day we were out in the heat passing out waters and burritos. We felt rich as we gave water when there were so many without. I intended on giving freely before the water outage, but to know the people that needed it most were getting it was particularly special. We were happy to help anyone in need!
Later that evening my boys were planned to be with me downtown, but with the water outage we decided to stay outside of the city. As a parent it is always important to put them first so we camped out in the camper.
Waking up on the 12th meant taking down the flag from the main sign. I wanted people to see the flag flying and know the 9/11 victims and Fallen 5 were not forgotten. Once up I went to remove the flag by driving there in the Blazer of Glory, but the shifter broke when I went to back up. Once realizing what just happened I decided to walk to the main sign. Since we slept in the park it was not too far of a walk. I actually enjoyed the walk early in the morning to retrieve the flag. In the dawn’s early light, the flag was still there!
We took a couple pictures of the flag hanging and then folded it up for next year. I taught Olivia how to fold a flag. Each time the flag was folded this year someone learned how and I got practice too! Flag raising and folding is important process and holds respectful meaning in each fold. To fold a flag one must take great care with each fold because you must reach the end with enough excess and have formed a perfect triangle.
After folding the flag, the humbling walk back in front of the building where the men lost their lives gave me time to think about their last moments. I am still here with a mission and they left while on their mission. Picking up the flag and carrying it on is all of our duties and we each do it differently.
Getting back to the truck I figured out what we could do to get a cable made as soon as possible. The part that broke was critical. I called Hudlow Axle and they recommended Hydraulic Supply Co. in Chattanooga and they were able to make a custom cable before the end of the day. We decided to go shopping and get more supplies for making burritos again. The people requested them as they are filling and easily eaten.
After getting the cable and food I set to work fixing the truck and adapting the plans for the day. I forgot some small bags and needed ice for the cooler. Once back at the truck I set up a cooking station for 96 eggs and 50 burritos with cheese! My little fold up table and Coleman grille were ready to cook 6 eggs at a time and package up the food as quickly as possible. After 2 to 3 hours of cooking I was exhausted and it was dark. I got to work before looking at the clock, but it took much longer than I anticipated. The pups and I were ready for bed!
I awoke to another beautiful day in Chattanooga. The forecast looked good for many of the days I was to be on the mission. After driving the truck, I noticed a vibration in my driveshaft which meant I had to replace the u-joints as soon as possible. The added weight and constant accelerations are hard on the drivetrain. I made a plan to accomplish the repair early in the morning after getting started for the day.
I had some burritos on ice left over from yesterday. I am finding that going to pass out food and water was better done after the food kitchen was closed. People who are homeless have limited access to resources after hours which includes water, food, and bathrooms/showers. It is personally frustrating to me that a city so great as Chattanooga is, has only a partial solution to a human living issue. A lot of people are confused as to the best solution. Many people have many different needs. Part of the problem begins by looking at the homeless population – as individual humans who have unique needs. I am simply trying to cover the basics of food and water to provide comfort. However, simple solutions can easily provide a humane living condition for many.
After getting the truck repaired, I headed to the library again to finish up some decals for the truck. To make the mission a success I seek sponsors to help cover some of the costs of the mission. In previous years we used most of the money for fuel, food, and lodging to get the American Flag on the Golden Gate Bridge. This year we used fuel money for food money, and put it in people’s mouths.
I want to thank our personal sponsors and our company sponsors: Olivia Rekoske, Jason Padilla, Zack Chastain, Willie Wilson, David Lightfoot, John Lippincott, and Jason Robinson. Our company sponsors include MTN View Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram, and Hudlow Axle. You all made it possible in 2019 to feed and care for those that need it most. We will continue to help people throughout the year as we are able, thank you!
This morning’s sunrise was especially beautiful! The morning changed from dark, to a light orange and pink sky which shone brighter as the day awoke. The buzz and roar of life began and another day started for the Fallen 5 Drive.
I was quite sore by this time since I was not prepared to run and sleep in hard places. Doing a new physical fitness program combined with sleeping on the ground and vehicles was a new level of soreness for me. Despite the soreness, stretching and a little ibuprofen went a long way.
After a few days of being in the streets, we realized there were more needs beyond food and water. We began planning a list of hygiene items we could purchase and put together and pass out for people. In addition to giving food we wanted to provide a level of care in which people could feel more comfortable.
For food we planned on cooking eggs scrambled with cheese and wrapping into a burrito. We got 60 eggs, 40 tortillas, and a couple pounds of cheese. We picked up another 4 cases of water to pass out as it was going to be hot for the next few days. It was quite a bit of work as we cooked, wrapped, and packaged the food. As we drove around passing out water and food, we asked what more needs were and so we planned to make a trip to the store for toothpaste, toothbrushes, wipes, band aides, alcohol pads, and other items.
By now I began to recognize certain people and they knew us as well. Often as I drove around town, my new friends would wave or say hi! It felt good to be doing good for others. The opportunity to do good for others is possible if we simply choose to do something. This simple mission has created so much joy and value. It was a great day to honor the Fallen 5!
Day 3 began with a beautiful sunrise in the morning overlooking the City of Chattanooga. It was peaceful and calm. With the sunrise we could hear the traffic and energy of the city come to life. Each day on this mission I awoke wondering how much good I could do for others in need. My mental balance was between serving those who were living, those who sacrificed their lives for others, and serving my own needs.
The major plans for the day including cooking hot dogs and passing them out with water. This means we would set up the grille and cook and package them up in zip lock bags. Each morning I made French pressed coffee, as I do every morning, and began planning the day. Each day at this point was going to be planned as the day went. I was learning a lot about what the real needs on the streets were.
Food is a big part of what we were doing. Additionally, seeking resources such as blankets, hygiene items, and coats was an important next step. I learned new information from those we served and we asked what their needs were. Some spoke of anticipating housing soon while others wanted simple items such as hand sanitizer.
My personal goal is to raise awareness for the status of homelessness in Chattanooga and care for these people on a personal level. Being a small team of dedicated people and dogs, we were able to impact people on an individual basis which was a special experience. Part of driving around was finding new places that were overlooked by others. Generally, there were people close to the Chattanooga Community Kitchen which is open daily for food and other resources.
To spread the word on our mission we headed to the Sunday Market at the First Tennessee Pavilion which was also a car show. We walked around with the dogs for a bit and shortly after left to help more people in needs. Later that night we visited Craven’s House again overlooking the city.
Mack, Miley, and I awoke early in the morning in the truck and I was very tired from the day before. For 2019 I wanted to put myself in homeless people’s shoes by living in the truck for the duration of the mission. Preparing for the mission was stressful and difficult to cram everything into the truck. Making room to sleep was quite a challenge, but we managed to make some comfort. I had not anticipated the discomfort from working out since it had been so long. A good night’s sleep is nothing to take for granted.
After stretching and waking up I went on another run with the dogs. Taking a grown dog is tough, but two with one being a puppy is quite a challenge. After we started the dogs got the hang of it somewhat. As we ran across Walnut Street Bridge the puppy was dragging behind; I thought she was tired. To my surprise she had to potty and so there I was picking up turds with my bare hands and running them to the trash! Next time I will bring a bag or at least try and make them go potty before we run! I made two laps for the Fallen 5 and loved crossing Veteran’s Bridge and seeing their plaques on 5 poles. It inspired me to push harder, to know I should be doing more for myself, to honor the Fallen 5.
After getting back to truck I realized I was completely covered in sweat and my Noogastrong shirt was soaked. I realized that I didn’t have a shower either and I would just have to cool down. I made some French pressed coffee and ate a little food. Our next mission was to hand out water and the PBJ sandwiches. We searched the town over and looked for people. We were successful in giving away all of the food and most of the waters. The goal is to hand out 2 waters and 1 food item to each person.
Another mission is to make the truck look as good a possible to represent the Fallen 5 properly. The decals and paint from prior years is show it’s age. After my accident I was not able to care for the truck and it sat outside for the winter and the sun got the decals to peel. I headed to the library to reprint the decals and put them on for each man. I want people to know what the truck is about when they see it, so I can point to their names and speak about their sacrifices.
For the 2nd round of feeding I decided that hot dogs would be a good thing to make. I bought 48 hotdogs, buns, beans, ketchup, mustard, and other supplies for feeding. I also bought more water and filled a new cooler to keep the food safe and cool out in the hot weather.
For the evening we decided to park somewhere more quiet and secure. Sleeping in a truck with no top and exposed is a unique experience. You hear everything and feel the city, it never sleeps. We visited Craven’s House and were blessed with an amazing sunrise.
The 2019 Fallen 5 Drive began with an early morning 6:30 AM run across Walnut Street Bridge and across Veteran’s Bridge. The two dogs and I stretched out, then I did some pushups and leg lifts. My goal is to honor the men with as many laps as I can run, and think about what they sacrificed while doing so. PT is a big part of daily life in the military and I know getting myself into shape will be a good thing for me as well. I want to take these 10 days to improve my community and myself.
My goal this year for the Fallen 5 Drive is to honor these men by doing good things for the community through my actions. Feeding and helping the poorest in our community is important because it is how we Americans should be taking care of one another. Serving your country can begin by helping people right in your own back yard.
Once I reorganized the truck after getting supplies, I headed to the Chattanooga National Cemetery to visit the graves of the SSGT David Wyatt and PO Randall Smith. It was a very peaceful day to observe the tempo of the city. The cemetery is very calm and it was an honor to spend time resting with some of our national heroes.
Once I finished at the cemetery I drove to the mural near the cemetery. After taking a picture of the truck next the mural I headed to the river park to let the dogs swim and check on the memorial in the river park. As far as I could see there was no progress on the site unless I was missing something. One of my goals is to check in on Fallen 5 memorial sites to ensure progress is being made and that they are kept up.
I begin the Fallen 5 Drive the same way every year. I visit the initial shooting site and eat a meal with the Fallen 5 at the Lee Hwy memorial. This year I folded up a flag with 2 volunteers for the Navy. It was special teaching these young men about the heritage they are about to embrace. Once I arrived at the Riverpark, I dipped the tires back in the Tennessee River and put water on the flag.
Now that the drive began, my next mission was to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and pass out waters. I made about 40 sandwiches and handed out about 60 water bottles. I simply drive around and see who needs food or water. Since I have been helping some people who are homeless, I have a good idea of where to start and where I can make a large impact. One of the highest concentration of people with needs is outside of the Community Kitchen. We often deliver most of the supplies here after driving around for a few hours. After a long day the dogs and I slept in the truck off Lookout Street.