We sat down yesterday morning with two amazing men whom I’ve come to have a great deal of respect for in such a short period of time. Fifty-year old Walter Romano is a veteran Navy pilot and who fought in Desert Storm. I met Walter through seeing a Facebook wall post from a mutual friend over the summer. At the time Walter was going through the first of three tryout phases for Team X-Treme. We interacted a bit over the summer and eventually set a date to meet for an interview.
On the morning of the interview, he messaged me to tell me he would be bringing Jeremy Soles with him. After a quick Google search of “Jeremy Soles” I realized our interview was about to take on a new dimension. Jeremy was a Marine and the founder of Team X-Treme and has been interviewed and featured on national news. (I later learned, during the course of our interview, that in the past three days, he had been contacted by the military leaders of several countries about bringing a Team X-Treme-type of program to their respective countries.)
We met up at a now undisclosed location at a historical civil war battlefield. It should be noted that Walter selected the location (presumably because it is a quite location that would lend itself to few distractions), and he bears the responsibility of our imagined near arrest and almost certain detention at Gitmo.
As we were about to begin the interview, a grounds keeper appeared to be about ready to mow in the area. Steve told him we were almost ready to video for about an hour and inquired about whether the mowing could be delayed. About ten minutes into the interview a police cruiser pulls up. I went over to speak to him as the others continued the interview. The very serious officer asked several questions about who we were and why we were there. He wanted to see a business card for 90 Revolutions. He asked if we had a permit to film. By this time, I was clearly flustered and intimidated.
The guys quickly realized that something was amiss. Jeremy had a business card with him and came to offer assistance. I have to say, his physical presence and demeanor was awe-inspiring. Jeremy is one hulking, towering mass of pure muscle. Steve soon flanked him and brought his own “gun-power” to the arena. Walter, whose intense eyes are like that of a highly trained interrogator, also threw himself into the battlefield. Needless to say, I have never felt so protected in my life. The interaction went kind of like this: “Yes, sir, we didn’t realize we needed to apply for and pay for a permit to do an on-camera interview on public land, sir. No, this is not-for-profit, sir. Yes, sir, we will comply with your request that we move from this space if someone else wanders over and requests to stand in the exact location that we are filming.” We were let off with a stern rebuke and steely warning.
It took a few minutes for the whole event to process through my feeble mind. On one hand, I was relieved that the officer left, and we didn’t get a ride down to the station for crimes against humanity (and filming on public land without a permit). On the other hand, I was deeply saddened for our county and our freedoms. Walter noted, “Thomas Jefferson must be turning over in his grave right now.”
The rebuke was ironic on so many levels. First, we were doing an interview to raise awareness and support for Team X-T.R.E.M.E. (train, rehabilitate, empower, motivate, endure) whose members participate in endurance events like triathlons, marathons, and xterras while wear gas masks that restrict their oxygen consumption by up to 30%. According to Jeremy, “The team dons gas masks as a way to symbolize perseverance in the face of insurmountable odds and to overcome mental and physical obstacles. Challenges experienced in the mask last for hours, while wounded warriors endure their challenges for a lifetime.”
Secondly, the men being interviewed were soldiers who literally volunteered their lives for our country and the freedoms we enjoy and so often take for granted. Among other things, Walter fought in the first Desert Storm. Jeremy was a member of a special anti-terrorism unit in the Marines. They fought along side those who gave of their limbs and their lives. They continue to fight a different battle today on behalf of those who are returning wounded. Although Elijah is currently infatuated by Superman, Batman, and the other super heroes, he will soon be of age to truly understand what a real hero is.
Lastly, we were filming on the hollowed ground of a civil war battlefield where legions of men sacrificed their lives for the cause. After the interview, as we were positioning ourselves under a massive tree for a picture, Jeremy personified the tree and wondered aloud about all of the things this tree had seen during the battle for freedom that was fought, in part, at its feet.
Today, we all continue to fight our own battles. Some remain military battles for which our country is involved. Others are personal battles for relationships, health, happiness, faith, finances, and every other cause that we struggle against each day. As our Epic Adventure continues, we will continue to fight to engage in adventures and meet new people who give us fresh perspectives and a more meaningful understanding of life. Yesterday’s adventure was certainly memorable.
Editor’s Note: We’re looking forward to editing and producing the interview in an upcoming post and using portions of the interview for the documentary we’re working on over the course of the upcoming year.