A Trip to Indonesia and A 160-Mile Bike Ride to Benefit Wounded Warriors
By Eric Bernsen ‘12 With each passing day at the office, my blood pressure slowly rises as I stir in earnest anticipation of the reveal on November 16, 2012 at 6 p.m. If you’re a law student or bar candidate, you know exactly what hour that is. That instant, about 39 days, 10 hours, and 22 minutes from now (but who’s counting?), will reveal what I, and thousands of other bar candidates, have been aching to know since the “stop typing” call at the end of July. Bar results.
So, in effort to push reset on our lives, leave our law student personas behind, and rejoin the human race, a few buddies and I took off. I mean, really took off, with nothing but our backpacks, baggies, and passports. Destination: Indonesia. Surf, tour, relax, and (attempt to) drop off the grid for a little while. We were there a month and could have stayed for four.
Out of the 26 days we were there, we had 18 surf days mostly by ourselves, shook hands with the reef, hiked a volcano, went scuba diving with Nemo, partied with the Hindus, and sat at bonfires with the wonderfully welcoming local families, eating fresh fish on the most remote beaches I have ever experienced. This, all while trying not to hurt ourselves or anyone else with our rental mopeds, surfboards strapped to the side. I couldn’t imagine a better break with better dudes. I felt like the luckiest guy alive. And I still do.
The happiness we all felt being away in such a breathtakingly beautiful country was daily punctuated by the poverty of the Indonesian people. It was everywhere. There were mountains of roadside plastic, and empty water bottles periodically bobbed by in the lineup. While that was alarming to this SoCal kid, perspective kept popping me upside the head. When it is a struggle to put food on the table, and provide the basics for your family, trash collection and sanitation become less important. But while many have very little, they are stoked about it.
As a traveler in a developing country (and walking dollar sign) your guard is always up. Strange people are exceptionally nice, and the immediate response is, “Okay, what’s your angle?” Well, I came to realize, that by and large, there was no angle. They were just really sweet, courteous, and accommodating people who want their guests to be happy. Show some Aloha, and they will do just about anything for you.
The point that kept clubbing me over the head was, that despite my looming student debt and bills at home, and “things” that occupied my many worries, it is all really just about people and family. Very simply, the things you own, own you. This probably flies in the face of many of the wannabe-attorneys in the audience because one of the things that drew us to this occupation was “increased earning potential,” right? But that is what really hit home for me, and I do not intend to forget it. It is one thing to like nice things – and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t – but it’s another to forget about how good we all have it.
So there is my long-winded segue into what this piece is actually about. Guys who have lost everything, or perhaps more appropriately, given everything. Or, at the very least, a leg or two, and an arm, or both: The Wounded Warriors.
For the second year in a row, starting Saturday, October 6th, I am back in the saddle for a 160 mile journey with 90 or so of the coolest, most incredible, selfless guys I have ever met. The Wounded EOD Warriors. EOD, for the uninitiated, is Explosive Ordnance Disposal. While they are not on the headlines most of the time, they do the dirty work, in tight spaces, disarming bombs and cell-phone actuated improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Many do not return. Those that do are often wounded, most physically, all with disturbing images burned in their consciousnesses that haunt them the rest of their lives. The returning service members often have significant medical requirements, racking up bills their paychecks and military benefits do not cover. Families suffer along with the wounded. Out of these unmet needs, the Wounded EOD Warrior Foundation was born.
EOD is a joint service military, operational skill that spans all of the U.S armed services. The Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Army all train EOD Technicians in the nearly 7,000 member community. EOD Techs are responsible for disarming, rendering safe, and disposing of a variety of unexploded military ordnance and terrorist devices such as IEDs that have been responsible for the majority of injuries and fatalities to our troops overseas.
The Wounded EOD Warrior Foundation is a non-profit organization that provides assistance to our wounded warriors and their families. The WEODWF really is an amazing organization and has helped countless wounded service members and their families. The Undefeated, Two-Day Ride itself begins in Culver City this Saturday morning (6 October), with a stop that night in Irvine, 70 miles to the south for laughs and sleep. Sunday morning, we’re back in the saddle, finishing a 90 mile stretch at FIFTY SEVEN Degrees, at 1735 Hancock Street, in Old Town. Feel free to come out and cheer our arrival Sunday, starting at noon. There will be a party with lots of EOD displays and goodies at the end, if you care to join: www.eodride.org.
As I said, this is round two for me, having completed the trek last October, while having an absolute blast. Last year, 94 riders spun their legs for 160 miles and raised over $220,000 for the Foundation. This weekend, I heard that we have already hit the $200k mark on our way to the $250,000 goal. 160 miles might be a bit of a stretch for some, but when you're riding next to a guy who is missing one or both of his legs (yes, we had a single-leg amputee and a double-leg amputee ride us across the finish line at Liberty Station last year) it makes you want to push that much harder, mentally and physically. Your legs may burn, but it is absolutely awe-inspiring, knowing what they and so many of our uniformed brothers and sisters have endured. We ride for the Warriors and their families and remind everyone else of their sacrifices.
While the intent of this article is not to beg for pledges, I would be remiss if I did not mention the appropriate links. If you would like to help, here is the link. http://www.active.com/donate/eodride2012/EBernse2
And if you are interested in reading more about the Wounded EOD Warrior Foundation, check out http://woundedeodwarrior.org/.