Camille McNeese writes about taking part in a Battlefrog Series Race with TEAM Special Ops in Houston on March 28, 2015. The Team was honoring her fallen husband, MAJ Matthew Wade Worrell along with several others.
Have you ever stopped yourself in a moment, and wondered what all has happened in your life that put you in that spot? At about 10:15 on the morning of March 28, 2015, that very thing happened to me. My two sons and I were about to run a race, not something that I ever thought I would do, and definitely not something my sons ever thought they would see me do. I had pulled them to the side, we stood in a little 3-person circle, and my son, Luke, said a little prayer. I then told them that if at any time during the race they felt tired or if they needed help, to just think of their dad, and the movie “Angels in the Outfield”, a movie about a baseball team who were having such a hard time that they needed angels to help them play. That is the exact movie I used to explain to my older son, Jake, what happened when his father was killed. I told him that Daddy would always be there for his brother and him, and help them along.
Flashback to May 14, 2006. It was Mother’s Day. My husband, MAJ Matthew Wade “Bubba” Worrell, was killed when his Little Bird helicopter was shot down in Yusifiyah, Iraq, an area also known as the Triangle of Death. That evening, I received the dreaded knock on the door. My sons were 5 and 2, and had already been put to bed for the night. I didn’t sleep a wink that entire night. I am blessed with the fortunate problem of having many, many very good friends, and I knew the house was going to be full of people the next day. I had to figure out a way to explain to a very smart and curious 5-year-old who all of these people were, and why they were all there. And so I did. From I don’t know where, probably my angel, I was able to translate it in to 5-year-old language about angels, and that movie that I haven’t seen since.
I am not the only woman who has been forced to face the fact that I would be raising my children alone, with no father to look up to, to play with, to tell secrets to. As a matter of fact, just the year before, my friend had the same thing happen to her. I never thought I would be in her shoes. But there I was. At the Memorial Service in Fort Campbell, I remember be at the reception following there was a line of people wanting to share their condolences. Unfortunately I don’t remember everyone who was there, but I remember very clearly two ladies, standing arm in arm, coming up to me, hugging me, and briefly explaining to me about this wonderful organization, Special Operations Survivors (formerly known as United Warrior Survivor Foundation). I remember that moment. I also remember that I couldn’t remember the name of the organization, or any details that they had shared, but I remember they were there. They had already lived the nightmare I was in, and they were ready to help their newly initiated sister. They are to this day, two women who I would never let pass me without a monster hug. They were there for me. And that was the first step to saving me.
And that is what Special Ops Survivors is all about. It’s about sisterhood. It’s about bad widow jokes that no one else would understand. It’s about hugs. It’s about tears. It’s about encouragement. It’s about not saying anything at all. And it is just about one of the very most important clubs I have ever unwillingly joined. It is about best friends. It is about sisters. It is about love.
And with all of my sisters, we are strong, but part of our family also includes our big brothers: Team Special Ops Survivors. These men who go out and run races in honor of our heroes. These men who don’t know me or my boys, or my late husband, but who take time away from their families and their work to make sure that we, the families of the special operations community, and our heroes, are not forgotten.
When I first discussed this race, and having the team run in Matt’s honor, I knew I wanted to be there to support them in running the race. I envisioned standing on the sideline holding up a sign of encouragement. I thought maybe my boys, now 14 and 11, maybe getting a chance to run the 1 mile. After multiple conversations with the team, I somehow ended up running the race. And if any of you know me, that in itself is pretty darn funny.
Back to the prayer circle with my boys. We prayed, I encouraged, and then I wondered how in the hell I got there. And that there was no backing out now. Not that I really wanted to. I wanted to support the men who were supporting me, and I wanted to support my boys, who by this time, had signed up to run the 8K, as part of Team Special Ops Survivors, obstacles and all. I had also convinced my brother, one of his sons, and a couple of Matt’s friends from college to join us. We had no idea what to expect, but we knew we’d complete it.
After the man said “Go”, we went. I never saw the 11-year-old again throughout the race, until I crossed the finish line. Apparently he had gotten there 45 minutes earlier. I had managed at one point to catch up to my 14-year-old. There was a section of race where we had to carry these what seemed like 50 pound water jugs for what seemed like 10 miles. I have never seen my 14-year-old struggle like that. And I had never seen the looks of determination on his fact that I saw that day. Team Special Ops Survivors stayed with him the entire way, often offering to carry one of his water jugs. He was not having it. I always knew he was just like his dad, but I never realized quite how much when I saw him declining assistance, and demanding he do it on his own. Rumor has it, the 11-year-old did the same thing. It was opportunity that I never saw coming to see with my own eyes something that I already knew. That their father was alive and well, in them. I am proud of those boys every day of their lives, but that day was like no other. Team Special Ops Survivors not only honored my husband’s memory, but also allowed us to honor him too. I know he was looking down beaming with pride, and probably laughing at me. Without this organization, I don’t know where I would be. I always give credit to two things that “saved” me, my children, and Special Ops Survivors. Without this organization, I would not have met some of my best friends. Friends that I talk to on a weekly basis. Friends I cry to. Friends who I console. My sisters. Thank you to Special Ops Survivors for everything you have done for me and my family. And thank you to Team Special Ops Survivors for giving us the opportunity to make our hero proud. We can’t wait for the next run!