When I plunge into the less-than-pure waters of the Hudson River on Sunday morning at 7:20am,
it will mark the beginning of the 70.3 mile Toughman Triathlon. Over the next six hours while
in the water, on a bike, and running the open roads of suburban New York, a million things are
sure to go through my mind as I try to complete this brutal test of endurance. But there will be one
person who will occupy most of my thoughts.
Brian Bill was a Navy SEAL who was killed on August 6th while on a mission in Afghanistan. He
was part of the elite, SEAL team 6, the unit that hunted down and killed Osama Bin Laden. Bill, a
Stamford, CT. native, was well-aware of the dangers and possible outcome when he signed up to
be in the military. He accepted it because the opportunity to defend our country and protect its freedom
was vitally important to him.
Many of us say we love our country, but how many of us would really put our lives on the line to
protect it? Not many. Brian Bill did, and he paid the ultimate price for it. I never knew Brian Bill,
but he is my hero. We grew up in bordering towns and our high schools were part of the same
athletic conference. But I had graduated long before he was even a freshman at Trinity Catholic High School. When word came down that Navy SEAL team 6 had killed Bin Laden, I read everything
I could about SEAL's and their mental, physical, and emotional toughness. I wrote about them
in one of my blogs, proclaiming them to be the "greatest team ever."
When I found out that Bill was one of the Navy SEAL's killed when the helicopter they were in during
a mission was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade, I was floored. This 31-year old man had
his whole life ahead of him. I studied his pictures and one of them showed Bill smiling, as if he knew
the world was his oyster and he could accomplish anything he wanted to. Bill had already received
his commercial pilot's license, was an accomplished mountaineer, spoke French, and wanted to be
an astronaut. I also read where he was a triathlete, completing several tough and grueling events.
Despite not knowing Bill, he has inspired me. He is pushing me to achieve all my goals. I'm doing
this Toughman Triathlon to honor him and his memory. Bill didn't get into the military or become
a Navy SEAL for the personal glory. He was so unselfish, so brave, so pure, and so courageous.
He fought others, so we didn't have to. He put his life on the line, so the people back home didn't
have to. He gave up his security and freedom, to make sure we didn't surrender ours.
I have the freedom to test my endurance and will in the Toughman Triathlon on Sunday, September
11th, arguably the most significant day in our country's history. I'm dedicating it to Brian Bill, the
toughest man I never knew.