Forging Unforgettable Memories in Good Company
Growing up in the foothills of the Rockies, I have always adored and admired those superior hunks of Earth thrust into the skyline millions of years ago. I spent many nights camping among the bears on a bed of pine needles, a canopy of evergreens tucking me in like my favorite comforter.
My twin 9-year old daughters, Adelin and Audrey, are growing into my spitting image, with personalities polarized from my own. They are lovely and wild, constantly infusing the boundaries of life with their sensational imagination; however as of late, they beg and plead with me to fix their eyes upon the screens of a digital universe, yearning to watch a world through a window they can never really open to climb through.
This pains me for I feel they are depreciating the adventure and magic right under their feet.
With the summer coming to a close, the perfect opportunity to have an adventure made itself known. Washington D.C.’s 4th Platoon of The Mission Continues was heading up to the base of Old Rag in Shenandoah National Park to help Team Rubicon continue their work on a log cabin for warriors to reserve and use.
Ever since my little ladies could hold their own – read: functioning without my 24/7 supervision – I have fantasized about taking them hiking and camping with me, however anxiety’s grip always held me back.
Would we three be safe? If something happened on the trail, could I get us all back in the pieces we left in? This time was different, this time I had my tribe.
The weekend arrived, perfectly August – hot, sticky, and unforgiving.
Pulling into camp on Saturday morning, we arrived to Team Rubicon buzzing around the new hive, workers constructing someone’s much needed escape. After a safety brief and orientation, we were assigned our missions.
The girls picked up tools to start clearing a field while the rest of us got to hauling wood and helping out. In true The Mission Continues fashion, we seized the opportunity to demolish a shed; giggling, we geared up and armed ourselves with gloves and sledgehammers, chomping at the bit for some cathartic destruction.
After 6 hours of physical labor, sweating to the crescendo of the cicadas and sweltering sun, we fancied ourselves a dip in some cool water.
Trekking up road, we made our way to a watering hole I had remembered from a few years earlier. Instantly we transformed into rambunctious teenagers, splashing, dunking, and stories of tomfoolery pouring out of all.
That night around the fire, we laughed and played a few games, eventually serenading the summer night with hard rock classics. We fell asleep in our tents pitched in the very field we had cleared that day, the Perseids at their peak punctuating the perfectly dark sky.
We woke early, hungry and sore, packed up camp and said our goodbyes, ready to hit the trail to ascend Shenandoah’s Old Rag Mountain.
Our party consisted of five fellow veteransand two 9-year-olds. At this point I was exhausted; as an introvert, it’s tough to be constantly “on,” not to mention negotiating the safety, whereabouts, and hunger levels of my children.
Okay, I’ll be honest – I was straight cranky. A cool 30 minutes into the 9-mile hike and I was already hearing “are we at the top yet?” I managed to hold my own for about 20 minutes, but very quickly the Marine Corps Sergeant in me started to show.
Seeing that my patience was beginning to wane, my friends swooped in. Within minutes, Adelin and Audrey had forgotten about the steep grade they were negotiating; there was my tribe, laughing and chatting them up like they had been besties since the first days of kindergarten.
For the moment, I could just be.
After a few breaks for food, and testing out our newly learned lady skill of peeing in the woods, we finally hit my favorite part – the rock scramble.
We shimmied, jumped, crawled, slipped, cursed, ducked, and climbed across, constantly taunted by the summit. With teasers of panoramic views, we had finally made it. Upon boulders of granite, we feasted upon both the view and our lunch with the wind whipping against our skin, a chill reminding us of the altitude earned.
Lingering as long as we dared, we finally set off on our descent, with the choir of two crooning “are we done yet?” It was going to be a long trip down.
Among the stumbles, tears, and plenty of complaints, it could have been declared a disaster, the worst weekend EVER, hiking and camping forever scarring their young minds, but it wasn’t.
We made it back to camp, declaring a day of triumphs and adventure. Climbing into our cars, we headed into town to fill our tanks with gas, and our bodies with food and caffeine. Pausing, I hugged each of my brothers, thanking them for their service that weekend – I would have never made it without them.
Truthfully we would have made it – I am a Marine – but it would have been an ugly, bitter memory for the girls.
That night, after tucking the girls in, I wrote them love notes to stick in their lunch bags; I congratulated them on becoming Mountain Maidens, sharing how proud I was that they persevered.
I counted my own blessings and reminded myself how damn lucky I am to be in the company of such outstanding brothers and sisters. This company – this tribe – has Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Coasties, and Marines, and we are looking out for each other.
With Veterans Day in arms reach, I want to thank each of you who signed their life to this country, and to those we’ve lost along the way.
Thank you for having our six, together we will take the charge forth, in your honor and for ours.
Rose Feroah is a post-9/11 Marine Corps veteran, and Platoon Leader of The Mission Continues’ Washington, D.C. 4th Platoon. She is an entrepreneur and a small business owner, as well as the mother of beautiful twin girls