Veteran Feature Story: Jared Sarten
I enlisted in the United States Army on April 1st, 1997 as an Infantryman. After graduating from Airborne School, I completed the Ranger indoctrination Program and was assigned to the 3rd Ranger Battalion. I have been stationed at Fort Benning Georgia, Fort. Drum New York, Fort Richardson Alaska. I served for over 14 years in the Army while enlisted then spent the last 4 years as an Officer before being Medically retired.
After I was medically retired and forced out of the only thing I knew how to do. I was lost. Things continued to get worse. I had trouble finding and keeping work. I was ignoring my family and making bad decisions that was not only affecting me but my wife Leslie of 20 years and my 2 daughters Zoie and Finley. After spending 7 weeks in the Chris Kyle Patriots Hospital working on myself and getting some healing done, I figured it was time to start the healing process.
I found that by riding it gives me a chance to clear my head and relax. By doing the workouts that are given to me by my coaches at Project Echelon it gives me focus and motivation. When I joined the Project Echelon Team I needed goals, So I decided that I was going to sign up for the bike race, the one that was chosen was the RBC Gran Fondo in Silicon Valley. During the training sessions I found drive and purpose of being on the bike and being free. I was able to finish my 1st ever bike race placing 102 out of 333 males.
Veteran, Alex Schueckler, Guest Rides at Cascade Cycling Classic; Supports Team in Securing 2nd Overall
The anticipation of doing your first Pro/1 race is daunting enough, but the idea of doing that race alone with no support seems crazy.
When I reached out to Eric and the Project Echelon Team, the response was more than I could have hoped for. His enthusiasm and then following support helped quell that anticipation and made me even more excited for the race. He wasted no time in getting me set up with kits and introduced to the team members I would be riding with in Bend, OR. Zach and Tim were more than welcoming when I met them at the race the first day.
The next five days were some of the hardest and most rewarding racing I've ever done and was that much better with an awesome team to interact with. As an active duty member of the Navy, it can be a challenge to stay on top of my training and racing aspirations.
Racing with Project Echelon was an amazing opportunity to race at one of the highest levels in amateur cycling and I am grateful that this phenomenal organization let me represent them at the 2019 Cascade Cycling Classic.
I was going through old pictures and found this one from my 03 summer vacation to Iraq. One thing about the Army and war is you get to meet some amazing people. You get to know which people are the real deal. Let me brag on this guy for a minute.
Castillo was part of my squad. In Iraq, he was my driver and I was his gunner. Allow me to share two occasions where I was reminded how thankful I was for it.
#1 we pursue several vehicles we caught actively lobbing mortars at our position from truck beds. I engage with my belt fed m249. A hot link or shell casing lands in Castillos shirt against his skin. He's driving and in his head believes he has been shot because being shot burns. He keeps driving and decides if he feels blood run, he'll know for sure. He feels sweat and thinks its blood. He keeps pursuing the vehicles. He tells himself if he gets light headed he'll stop. He finds out after the incident what happened. Not many men would fight forward after believing they had been shot. Men coward for less during our deployment.
#2 I'm gunner. Castillo is driver. I scan the surrounding area. Nothing remarkable. There is a ridgeline to my left. I look forward and the road, meters in front of our vehicle blows up. I'm dazed as chunks of rock and dirt pepper my helmet. As I've been told, Eckley pulls me down into the vehicle. Castillo mashes the gas straight through the explosion. That's what he was trained to do. Clear the blast then regroup. To speed towards the blast and not stop in the kill zone. It takes a special person to carry that out.
I'm grateful for men like Castillo. I'm grateful to the Army for showing me men like him, and others like him exist.
This image paints two pictures that both serve important reminders and perspective shifters. In 2003, we rolled into camp intact, but one of our vehicles had this nice beauty mark on it.
Reality #1: Close calls change. Maybe I almost miss cutoff time at Ironman France. Maybe my favorite sports team loses the game In overtime on a questionable call or a ridiculous rule. Maybe I almost run a stop sign. Maybe a dog runs out in front of my car and I just miss it. Maybe I get wifi back up just in time to catch the live stream. Maybe I lost the podium spot in the final leg of the race.
What this picture reminds me is that "close calls" mean something different now then it did in 2003. Not that dissapoint isn't real and shouldn't be felt. But, the reality is I can feel fairly confident nobody is trying to kill me... but, for that year, it was a daily reality regardless of aggressive action taken against us. People wanted us dead. On days where depression rears its distorted head, it still feels that way. But relationship, fitness, film, and vulnerability carry me forward.
reality #2: The cause of this hole was a thing we didn't agree on. Some heard a single shot after the glass broke. Some heard it when It broke. Some said it was a rock. No matter the truth, the perception was real. Was it a sniper round? Was it a rock? I don't know. In my memory, it was the former. I heard the report of a rifle. I wasn't in the vehicle. I was behind it. The victory isn't in debating the facts of that moment, rather understanding the feelings around it. Some will chose to believe it was a bullet because they want it to be a life threatening adrenaline rush. Some want it to be a rock so they can believe they are in no real danger.
Take any high stress situation and you'll hear several different versions of the same story. Police, fire, war, tragedies... All involved will have some variant in how they perceive the event. That's why I care more for the feelings I carry verses the black and white flow of events. Sure, it can bring some peace in finding clarity, and it has for me in some cases to fill in the gaps. But much of my healing work has been done in the gray.
When we came home from Iraq in 2004, we were free. It took 14 hours to go from an active combat zone to be "back on the block." No time to process. Hand in your weapon and hit the barracks.
This was the morning after that night. Between 6 or so young men, we drank hard. We said we were celebrating... but for me I can see how hard we were trying to numb. We were trying to make sense of this abrupt transition. We were trying to prevent any negative thoughts from entering our minds. We were trying to clean our wounds with the wrong kind of alcohol.
The next day we were all dismissed at first formation. Hardly anyone could stand at attention without swaying, still drunk. It should have been my first clue to what problems lied ahead... Instead I laughed and excitedly rushed to my bed, hiding in the warmth of blankets that would become the bedding of my cave... the place where I would spiral so deep, I would try to end my life 5 years later.
I'm in a better place now. LIVING my life. My journey became the template for our non-profit Project Echelon.
The Project Echelon Racing Team continues to attack and establish itself as one of the top programs in North America. With 55 podium appearances in 2019, and counting, the team has become force to be reckoned thanks to the "all for one, one for all" mentality it carries into each race.
Most notably, in the month's of June and July, the team earned three podiums at the Elite National Championships in Hagerstown, MD and three top ten finishes at Professional National Championships in Knoxville, TN. The team then went on to put on a strong display of teamwork and sportsmanship at the Intelligentsia Cup in the Chicagoland Area, winning the overall competition at the 11-day series and taking to the podium 13 times.
More importantly, every time the team takes to the podium, it serves as another opportunity to educate, equip, and empower veterans and our community members by sharing our mission and its importance.
Anton's Salon and MSpa sponsored the Project Echelon Omnium. Their support enabled us to allow veterans to race for free! Thank you...
We also want to give a shout out the following sponsors, who supported the event through merchandise donations:
- Clif Bar
- Amp Human Performance
- Normatec Recovery Boots
- Saris and CycleOps