A Weekend At The Ranch
I’m not even sure where to start as I am still absorbing and digesting all that happened at the Ranch this past weekend. The Ranch, you ask?? Yes, that would be the Prairie Chapel Ranch – yes again, former President George W Bush’s ranch. How did Ann Clasby, an OHT Board member in the Dallas area, and I get to spend the weekend with the Bush’s, veterans and other invited guests? Here’s a little background.
Some months ago, I saw an OHT hat design come across my computer for approval from the Bush Center store-part of the George W Bush Presidential Library. (Beautiful, by the way). I was surprised to see it as I had not been aware that there was interest by the store to carry OHT/’47 hats. But it made some sense as the President had just completed and was selling his new book, Profiles of Courage,a book featuring his artwork/paintings of our wounded warriors. I knew Bush was very supportive of the military and had formed close bonds with many of the wounded veterans. So again I wasn’t shocked but decided to check into what was going on at the Bush Center store. Long story short, the store was looking for merchandise and product that supported our veterans and OHT did just that. We were approved for one military camouflage American flag hat and it has been a best seller; in fact this small store sold 65 in one week which they told me is a “phenomenon”.
Along the way I sent an OHT hat to the President through the store and them to the Bush Foundation. He loved that OHT was supporting those service members and veterans who had been wounded during battle.
All this led to the Foundation’s reaching out to OHT asking if we would join the Bush Foundation perhaps on the Military Services Initiative side for Veteran Wellness. In Aug we said yes. Politics aside, (OHT remains apolitical) OHT wanted to be part of what is being done for veteran wellness in this country and we thought we had something to offer.
Fast forward to my hearing a lot about the George Bush W100k Bike Ride done every Fall on the Ranch. Wounded veterans were invited to ride with the President on the Ranch (keep in mind the Bush’s don’t open their Ranch but once or twice a year to even select visitors but for this they do) but they had to be good riders and pass a series of tests before they could participate. This was no cakewalk. This was serious business with the 71 year old President leading the pack. Talk about competitive. WOW!
This year was special. It was an Alumni Ride with all veterans who had ridden before invited back-in all 54 attended, many of whom are featured in Profiles of Courage. I happened to ask the Foundation who was doing their hats and luckily for OHT, no one was so OHT, with help from ’47, became the sponsor which meant an invitation to Ranch was in the mail. I’ll be there!
So I flew to Dallas, met Ann and we jumped in the car and ventured to our hotel. Tomorrow was going to be an early rising day and we were 45 minutes from the Ranch. It hit us as we got in the car that next morning what we were about to do. We were about to meet and spend time with the former President and First Lady of the United States and meet unbelievably courageous veterans who put everything they had on the line for their country. Were we really going to have this once in a lifetime opportunity? You bet we were!!!!
We had passed our background check before we arrived, whew, and now came to some checkpoints. We were thoroughly searched before we would be allowed on the property. The dogs were in full force and security was top notch but we were let through. Whew again.
And then we had the experience of a lifetime. We mingled with the President and Laura (she asked that we call her that) ,the veterans and the sponsors. It was a small enough group that we got to know each other and have some good laughs. The President said my magenta and aqua hair was “Strong”. I told him if he needed me, he’d be able to find me. We laughed. The President knew every veteran by name and knew his story of recovery. He had been involved with all of them not only while he was in the White House but also after. He communicated with them and took good care of them. As Laura would say during our Caretakers session, the President had to make very difficult decisions-decisions that heavily weighed on him so she had to be there to support him. The President and Laura told the veterans they loved them and thought of them every day and they were sincere. The recurring quote I heard all weekend was, ”Sir I would re-enlist tomorrow if I could go back and serve under you.”
The second day was just as good as the first. We followed the riders in a gator and had a tour of the Ranch. We broke down along the way (the first time this has ever happened they told us. Right. Why us?). How do you get rescued when you are out in the middle of a 1700 acre ranch in 100 degree heat? We didn’t panic (much) because we just knew there had to be a rescue system in place. Sure enough help came along quickly. We saw what use to be an active waterfall, now dried up, and its spectacular cavern. What a sensational place!!!!
After lunch it was time to say good bye to our new friends, the veterans and the Bush’s. (Laura and I laughed and said my hair reminded her of the Trolls movie and that I could be Poppy. That’s her granddaughter’s name so it was fitting). It was time to reflect on all we had seen and done. It was time to give thanks to a President who understood the sacrifice of the military and especially the wounded veterans at the Ranch. He has often said he will spend the rest of his life caring for and making veterans’ lives better. He certainly seems to be doing that and in return is enjoying the relationships and friendships he has formed. As OHT says, ”THEY PROMISED TO DEFEND WE PROMISE TO SUPPORT”
OHT hopes to be back next year and we can’t wait. Find out more about OHT at www.operationattrick.org
Operation Hat Trick
Pictured: Ann Clasby and Dot Sheehan at the Bush Ranch cavern and waterfall.
The Founder’s Blog is a regular feature on the Operation Hat trick website. This blog will give you information and recount stories of our journey to help those in need. To read our most recent blog and find archived blog posts, please visit our “Founder’s Blog” page.