The Aaron Vaughn Memorial Frogman swim is a local charity event held on or about Aaron Vaughn’s birthday to raise money for Operation300. Operation300 is the non-profit organization founded by Aaron’s sister, Tara, where Gold Star children are taken to camp where they are mentored, loved on, and taught all the kinds of things their father’s would have taught them. Truly one of the most amazing organizations (and families) I have ever had the blessing of being a part of. I love Operation300.
This year, Kemper was third female finisher, Daly Kay was fifth, and Uncle John was third male. Not bad. The Rebacks came and conquered. But the best thing that happened at the event was almost accidental.
As you know, we are big Brian Mast fans. Not only is he a good friend, but Brian is honest-to-God just a good MAN. An army ranger who worked EOD, he lost both legs and a couple of fingers to an IED. Determined that such a tremendous sacrifice would not be the greatest contribution he would make to his country, he is now running for congress.
I mean, who does that? Who? Brian is just…amazing.
An opponent tried to cut him down by saying he exploits his (very cool-terminator looking) prosthetic legs to gain sympathy and political support. He made fun of him for “running for congress” since he has no legs. True to Brian Mast form, he began registering for every 5k and endurance race he could find. And so participating in the Aaron Vaughn Frogman 1 Kilometer Swim was just another opportunity to push himself, overcome, and compete.
Now stop and think about it. Swimming one kilometer is hard. Swimming one kilometer without legs and missing a few fingers is like…unreal.
Brian had a few swat guys help him down the beach to the start and off he went.
What took Kemper 15 minutes and David 17 minutes took Brian nearly an hour. Muscling through the water and trying to move forward while simultaneously struggling to keep from going directly verticle, David noticed him coming in to shore. David looked everywhere for the military/law enforcement guys that had been there to get Brian to the start but he noticed that as Brian got closer to the sand there wasn’t anyone near the shore. He quickly made his way to waters edge. As David came into the water, Brian put his arm around him. Another swat guy came and got on Brian’s other side, and together they helped Brian up the beach to the finish. To Brian, this was just how he did a race. Maybe he knew what this meant to David or maybe it’s just so normal to him that the magnitude of the moment was simply in David’s mind. But as Brian patted David’s shoulder and they made their way over the finish, David said it was all he could do to hold it together emotionally.
I know there are probably 947 things a day Brian does differently because of the loss of his legs. Even that is most likely a serious underestimation. But to David, to be able to assist, even for one moment, to be able to fill a gap or a small need for someone who literally lost his limbs on our behalf– it was just completely humbling and simultaneously gratifying.
So maybe because of this story, you’ll be on the lookout to find an opportunity to step in a serve a veteran in some small way. Or consider giving to Operation300. There is something so gratifying about giving back to those who have served or lost on our behalf.