On June 29th the Tacoma Yacht Club in Washington hosted the third annual “Let’s Take a Veteran Sailing in Tacoma” event, where 20 boats - sailboats and powerboats - came from the Tacoma and Corinthian Yacht Clubs under the leadership of Bill Foulk and Nancy Williams to create a great day of sailing and healing!
Under the backdrop of the active volcano Mt. Rainer, Jim Day, father of one of Our Mates, gave a speech to spread veteran suicide awareness and remember his son Ryan. This is what he said…
“Memories not made…
It’ll be 5 years in December since we lost our son Spl. Ryan James Day a 2nd Battalion Ranger to PTS related suicide. 5 years…it’s hard to believe. And I’ve spoken here previously about the effect time has had on that wound to our family, friends, and his Ranger brothers. A wound that is forever a gaping hole in our heart, destined to NEVER EVER close. Personally, as a result I’ve lost my edginess. Those who know me for years remember when the slightest wrongful act I witnessed would be followed by a backlash of words and actions to correct the wrong-doer. And while you can count on me to be loyal and ready to spring into action should something threaten family or friend, the little things have started to become less and less aggravating with the magnitude of pain I’ve suffered. I’ve grown somewhat numb. Ultimately, I’m probably a better person for it but I would go back to being that volatile guy for just one more day with our son.
This year my thoughts reverse from “Time” which was my theme of last years’ speech to the absence of it. And by that, I mean the lack of another moment on this earth with Ryan. The memories not made weigh on me like what I imagine a 75-pound pack on a 5-mile ruck feels like…in the rain…uphill…with the drill sergeant screaming in my face. While I am fundamentally aware that some of those times creating new memories would have been bad, I long to feel anything…anything NEW about his life. His aspirations, his progress, shit even what he had for dinner last night or what movie he wants to go see or maybe hearing him tell us about running his car into a ditch and having to be pulled out by a buddy after the third straight night of CQ. That last one is true by the way. We’ve just watched his cousin and a few of his very close friends get married in the last month. All beginning new chapters in their lives and none of which Ryan would witness or experience himself when he finally decided to settle down. And that part REALLY HURTS. You see while Ryan’s no longer here there can be nothing new, good or bad, to add to those memories. Because ultimately when you are gone, all that’s left are memories of your life that stop in time. Everything after that fateful moment is minus you. Keeping Ryan’s memory alive with as many people as possible is a thing for me. So, in addition to the therapeutic value working with SailAhead affords me, one of my selfish reasons for doing this and speaking to you all through my pain is to do just that…make you think of Ryan through me. These are the “new” memories of him that I can channel in his absence.
But don’t misunderstand. My ultimate goal is to reach AS MANY OF YOU AS POSSIBLE about the 22 lives a day lost to the suicide epidemic among Veterans and active duty soldiers and have you declare that you won’t become one of the SailAhead mates that Sean describes. And maybe through educating you about the aftermath on those who are left behind in the wake of such tragedy will help push the idea from your mind. So even if your only memories of Ryan are the stories I tell about his life and our loss, we both win if you are hearing the message contained in them and it leaves a lasting impression.
So, let’s KEEP MAKING MEMORIES. Life is neither good nor bad, it’s just life. It’s what you do with your time here that matters. And I know so many people here like the Duclay’s and SailAhead, Mark Otto and the United War Veterans Council, Ron O’Ferrall and the Darby Project, Bill Foulk and Nancy Williams with their Ranger outreach in Tacoma, Bruce Blanco (another gold star Dad) and the American Legion Riders Chapter 1244, and many more who are doing so much more than anyone could imagine with their time here on earth. Not to leave out the Tacoma and Centerport Yacht Club along with all the skippers and their friends and families who are volunteering their time to make an impact.
When you look at it in perspective there will be good, bad, and mundane times in your life. That’s just how it rolls. I’ve recently grown to enjoy the mundane along with the good. Think about a time when you’ve been away for an extended period and finally come home to that routine you remember. Try and tell me that doesn’t feel good and I’ll call you a liar. So, if you add the good with the mundane, that’s 2/3rds of the time that life isn’t bad. And for that we should be thankful.
To all of you who suffer or will suffer the ravages of PTS, don’t give up…let’s keep making memories.”
Thank You Nancy Williams and Bill Foulk for organizing this event for the Tacoma, WA Veterans!
Without The Tacoma Yacht Club, Nancy and Bill SailAhead would not be that strong.