Keep The Fire Burning
By: Mario Aguirre
“1,2,3 LIFT” a volunteer group made up of guys and girls lifts a giant red framed monster weighing a few hundred pounds. We all carry the red monster out of the gym, as a team we maneuver it under doorways, down a ramp and around some rails. We finally get to the trailer and once again, on the count of 3 we lift the beast over our heads and onto the trailer. It takes about 10 people working together, some on the ground and some on the trailer, to finally get big red in his place ready and secured to be transported.
“Great job” the big guy yells out, “were halfway there” he is referring to how much stuff we still have to break down and move. I’m no expert and this was my first time volunteering for this organization but I would say we had over a thousand pounds of gear, equipment and a wooden stage to move! It was around 10:30 pm and most of us had been working since 4pm, not to mention the 5 hours we had put in the day before. This is not your standard volunteer project, no sir, you truly have to have a love of the organization you are helping and a great sense of team work, or the third option … a little bit crazy. I might have a little of all three!
My name is Mario Aguirre, I am a veteran, deployed twice to Iraq and spent 11 years between the TX and AZ National Guard. I have an amazing job where I get to help veterans, service members, families and the communities understand military culture and connecting them to the right resources. For the most part I wear a suit and tie as part of my job, as a lead trainer I have trained over a thousand folks in our community and have traveled all over the state to include trips to the east and west coast. I have been to some very special veteran events and met some amazing people and yet inside me there is a small fire I cannot stoke fast enough. Something is missing; I need more logs for my fire.
Like most veterans my suit and tie are a new form of camouflage, I now blend in with 99% of the American population. I am in a good place but if I think of my life as a “foxhole” I must keep improving it. In order to operate at a 100% I need to stoke the fire, in every aspect of my life. You cannot concentrate solely on your job and forget about family, you can’t just focus on family and forget about yourself, there must be a balance. Stoke the fire for every aspect of your life!
I think it’s funny how in the military they tell you to never volunteer yet on the civilian side veterans volunteer three times more than the civilian population. VOLUNTEER, VOLUNTEER, VOLUNTEER, join team events, sign up for a mud run or obstacle course race. This has worked for me and many other veterans, these things are the missing logs to keep the fire blazing. I discovered this amazing sporting event named Rush Club about a year ago and when I got the opportunity to volunteer for them, I jumped on it. Rush Club is an amazing sporting event which pins athletes against each other either in a two person team or one on one fitness competition. This story is not about Rush Club but they are doing great things, it is ran by a veteran and many veterans have competed in this platform to include Dereck Weida, I encourage you to check them out.
OK, back to the red monster, the red monster is a metaphor for the giant metal structure used by the Rush Club competitors, as I stated before, this red metal frame along with a wooden stage broken down into pieces (which have to be put together like a giant puzzle), gear, weights and equipment have to collectively weigh a few thousand pounds. From unloading everything off a trailer outside in 110 degree AZ weather to carrying it inside and putting it together down to the sweeping, moping and wiping down the stage to make it shine and as presentable as your dress blues for a military board, this reminded me a lot of a military operation. We had officers who knew what the outcome was supposed to look like, we had NCO’s who had done this before and got their hands dirty to accomplish the mission. The officers made an appearance every once in a while to assure all was going as planned and the NCO’s kept us hydrated and motivated. We worked for about 5 hours setting everything up and about 7 hours the next day assisting in the competition and breaking down. We even did a dry run of the event, or what some of you would call a “rock drill” everyone had a job and we all knew it to include the master plan in case someone fell out and we had to step in. With blisters and splinters in our hands, sore muscles and sweat stains we all high fived each other when the mission was complete.
We volunteered to give these amazing athletes a platform to compete; we went the extra mile to give the hundreds of fans the best looking stage, all together the event, the mission, was a great success! As I walked out of the gym with a happy bounce to my step I ran in to Rush Club CEO AJ Richards, we both thanked each other. He thanked me for volunteering and I thanked him for the chance to be part of a team and if only for a moment but to feel that comradery again. He understood why I thanked him, as a fellow veteran himself; he understands what it means to be part of something bigger than yourself. I stoked my fire that night and now I am on the search for some more logs, never stop improving your foxhole and keep the fire burning.
Volunteer Jacob Aguirre wipes down the “red monster” ensuring it is ready to shine brightly for the big show.
Mario Aguirre and son Jacob Aguirre posing in front of the “red monster”
Volunteer pieces together what will be the main stage for Rush Club 008
Group of volunteers put the finishing touches on the “red monster” and clean up stage which will be used by the Rush Club Competitors
Mario Aguirre is an 11 year veteran, writer, graphic designer and father to five amazing children. For his day to day job he is an operations manager and lead trainer for a non-profit organization where he assists veterans, service members and their families connect to the countless resources and navigate the systems of care. He is also the Creative Director of Fall In 360, which is a Facebook Page and You Tube Channel where he writes and creates videos to entertain our veteran community. Go check out Fall In 360 on Facebook, Instagram and You Tube.