Saturday, October 21, 2017

~ Only the Brave ~

Last night my wife took me out to dinner and a movie.  Not just any movie.  I didn’t think I could see it; yet I knew I had to see.  It is called ‘Only the Brave.’

It is an honest, vivid, and compassionate story about elite Granite Mountain Hotshots.

On June 3, 2013, I had breakfast at a little café in Arizona with the crew.  At the time, I thought I was at the right place at the wrong time.  Today, I know I was at the right place and the right time.

On June 30, 2013, they fought the raging the Yarnell Hill Fire, some 30 miles from Prescott, Arizona.  19 of the 20 firefighters died in that fire.

On July 1, 2013, I wrote this 'Open Letter' to the families of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.  You should see the movie, remember these brave men, and take time to honor them.  This film certainly did.

July 1, 2013

This is an Open Letter to the families of the elite Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew.....all twenty members.

I am a biker, and on June 3, 2013, I was camping on some USFS land near Happy Jack, Arizona.  I had forgotten my therma-rest in La Joya, New Mexico so my camp was especially hard.  The pine needles I gathered helped to soften the ground, but only by the smallest margin.  I did not mind too much as I love camping under the stars.  However, I did move slowly the next morning.  There is a small cafe nearby and I'm looking forward to a hardy breakfast, the next day.  I think it is called the Long Valley Cafe, but I've always called it Happy Jack.

The fire trucks parked out front do not register in my mind....I am only thinking of coffee, and hot food.  As I walk into the small cafe, I quickly see a whole bunch of fire fighters.  "This is a big mistake I whisper to myself."  I see one waitress moving quickly and I can only image how long it will take for my breakfast.  The waitress is very fast and coffee and water is on my table.  Time is on my side so I relax.  I begin to look at the young men next to me.  They appear to be very well fit, happy, and so enjoying their breakfast with such enthusiasm.  Secretly, I hope there are a few eggs left over for me.  They all look like they could be movie actors in this period of time.  They remind me of my son.

When the waitress hears my order -- eggs over easy, hash browns, with corn beef hash, she writes down my order quickly and pours more coffee.  The young firefighter next to me says "that's what I ordered; it was very good."  I see this as an opportunity to make small talk, so I ask...."what fires are you coming from?"  Many quickly begin to talk at once....what, where, and how they left the last fire.  I am impressed.  "Where are you going now?"  "We are going to fires in New Mexico" they say almost at the same time.  I tell them that I just came from New Mexico and that two days ago there was severe lighting and rain.  I tell them that I like their shirts, and the words Granite Mountain Prescott Fire sticks in my mind.  I wished them well and say lastly, "be safe."

Quickly the fighter fighters move towards their trucks and are gone, or so I thought.  A young man comes back into the cafe and simply says, "thank you sir."  At the time, I thought he must be a bit homesick but I appreciate his comment immensely. 

On July 1, 2013, the headlines immediately caught my attention.  Nineteen firefighters die in Yarnell, Arizona.  They are the elite hotshot crew from Prescott, Arizona.  I read slowly knowing that the guys I met earlier were part of the Granite Mountain crew.  Maybe this tragedy involved another crew.  The words became harder to read but I continued and at the end "....the elite firefighters are known as the Granite Mountain Hot Shot Crew..."  They are the same guys I had breakfast with at the cafe; tears fill my wife comforts me but does not really know why I am upset.  I begin to explain the news and my connection to these young men.

Even now, days later, I can not stop seeing those young firefighters in my mind having breakfast at that small cafe.  To their family, my tears do not stop and I send at you my most heartfelt condolences.

To the survivor of the twenty-man Granite Mountain Hot Shot Crew, "thank you, I am so proud of you and your service."

  /s/ Robert Griego

Robert Griego

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