One day, after announcing one of the Patriotic Pony heroes, we received a phone call from a young lady who’s husband had served with the young man. Her family was being relocated, but she was interested in when and where this hero’s pony would go. They followed along on Facebook as many friends and family do.
Their relocation was no where near the Fisher House where their friend’s horse would go. At one point, we realized they had gone right by us during their relocation from New York to Idaho. Saddened by the missed opportunity to connect, we would later discover our journey would again cross their path. Traveling from Utah to Washington would take us directly through Mt. Home, Idaho. Exactly where this young couple was now stationed! Amazing!
We are very honored and humbled to meet this wonderful family Jon & Jeanette Jackson and their 3 beautiful children! We spent a wonderful night learning more about the Patriotic Pony hero Peter Taub and others lost and injured on that fateful day. Several units sharing lunch moments before, would forever be tied by one tragic event.
There were 5 others killed that day: Adrianna Vorderbruggen, Joseph Lemm, Louis Bonacasa, Michael Cinco, Chester McBride and several injured.
The Patriotic Ponies are meant to keep the memories of our fallen alive. To have the opportunity to learn more about them and other fallen and injured heroes means the world to us! We laughed and fought back tears as the antics and fond memories of some amazing men and women were shared! Thank you again!
Most of the profound moments on this trip were the unplanned side steps that just fell into place. Strangers reached out to us to tell us more about their friend and unfurled an amazing chain of events. These strangers became friends and they not only found time to help us connect with other friends of Peter Taub along the road, but were instrumental in getting us help on several other occasions!
It is such an honor to meet you! Our own guardian angels! Thank you for your service and thank you for our freedoms! And especially, thank you for adopting two crazy old hippies! Because of you we met so many amazing people! You ROCK!
Our 1st Base Presentation – Joint Base Lewis-McChord honoring Air Force Captain David Lyons. Captain Lyons was with the 21st Logistics Readiness Squadron. This gentle giant even had a ship named after him!
Manager Jodi Land, Sgt Sutton. Colonel Namini greeted and accepted the gift. We almost got to witness his first ride! Sweet little resident decided to wait until all the big people were out of th way! Precious! Hopefully the first of many, many more!
The base was a bit …of a challenge, although just 15 miles away, we left 2 hours early and still we were late! Slight SNAFU at the gate….but, to us….it was a fun adventure!
Special thanks to those who stood in for the family! David’s wife Dana is active duty and not able to attend. It meant the world to us that you came! Thank you again!
Our 4th presentation…………..the Patriotic Pony honoring Marine LCpl Kenneth Cochran.
Kenneth came into this world fighting all the way, with the umblical cord wrapped around his neck…………he learned early how precious every moment was! He knew he wanted to be a Marine and he worked to ensure it came true.
Greeted by the Fisher House Manager Stephanie Toeppe, the Acting Director Timothy McGuigan and Assistant Director Paula Raychaudhun, we were honored to present the Patriotic Pony to the Puget Sound VA Medical Center Fisher House.
It was such an honor to meet his mother Julia and her sister Allyson and hear her childhold stories of Ken. It is always so nice to get thoses one on one hugs!
We arrived the night before and couldn’t find a place to park for the night…..the VA Police were so nice and told us just to stay there! It was hard, because parking spots were precious and we were taking up ten. We would pop out with the need to explain. These vets were there for a reason! And here we were taking up so much space……most understood and even left with tears, handshakes and thanks.
We met two people from Ohio (Youngstown and Kent)…crazy huh! We even met a special young man, Paul who had some beautiful poems, so we asked him share them at the presentation. Thanks for helping make the presentation special Paul!
God bless our military and their families…..and all the Gold Star families! You are in our thoughts and prayers!
Amazing day! Utah knows how to party!………………
Our largest escort yet! The Utah Patrioti Guard Riders, 14 motorcycles helped the old hippies and the family of Jordan Byrd roll into the Fisher House in style!
Army Spc. Jordan Byrd, was a 19 year old medic who was killed after sprinting 300 yards through an onslaught of artilery to take care of a wounded comrade. He stabilized his patient and was killed using his body to protect him.
The Patriot Guard Riders not only stood behind us as we did the presentation, they lined the entrance with flags and saluted as the Patriotic Pony entered the building.
Fisher House Assistant Manager Nellie and her staff, Renee and Barb were there to greet us. Today was also Jordan’s son Ayden’s birthday! Everyone sang Happy Birthday to him! Truly awesome day!
After the presentation, we enjoyed a wonderful lunch with residents, staff and family. By the time we left, several had changed into tie dye t-shirts! It was so cool! We even converted some bikers into hippies! hahaha
It was simply amazing! There were smiles everywhere! Hope we made you proud Jordan!
2nd Patriotic Pony Painting Party of the day………………..
Tomorrow is the presentation of Army Spc. Jordan Byrd’s Patriotic Pony rocker. It is also the 6th birthday of his son, Ayden! We meet Ayden and his mom Savannah, four years ago when we delivered the Monster Medic. We have been able to watch him grow thanks to the magic of Facebook………..but, there is nothing like seeing him in person! What a sweet heart! He looks so much like his daddy!
Jordan’s family …sponsored a pony also, so we brought a rocker for them to decorate! We spent the afternoon, relaxing and painting hands and feet!
We even finally got a picture of ALL (well, almost ALL) of the finished rockers together! Thanks Doug and Jodi and the gang for helping us pull them ALL out, fix their hair, rearrange them a couple of times and then…………..put them ALL back away again!
…………….There was just something about seeing them ALL together, very humbling! Just a beautiful day!
The wonderful people of Microsoft helped by sponsoring a Patriotic Pony so, we arranged to bring one for them to decorate for the eastern tour.
Our contact Elizabeth Floyd was there to greet us, but was feeling ill and left shortly after our arrival, leaving us in the capable hands of Holly!
We talked about Hero’s Rock and the Patriotic Pony Pledge and afterwards we covered them with paint, as they laid their hands of support on another rocker.
It was so nice to meet everyone and they graciously provided an amazing lunch! I would love to give a shoot out to the restaurant Café Rio, because ………..IT WAS SOOOOOOOO GOOD!
Thank you all for having us! And special thanks to Holly for stepping up in Elizabeth’s absence and to Elizabeth for making this day happen! The pony turned out adorable! Feel better…..you owe me a hug!
Presentation of SSG Gary L Woods Jr’s Patriotic Pony to the Aurora, Colorado Fisher House…………
Escorted by Jim Herstein and the Colorado Patriot Guard Riders, the old hippies backed in to the Aurora Fisher house with a familiar face waiting on us……LeeSandra Thibodeau was there to greet us! If you are not aware, LeeSandra was the inspiration for the Patriotic Ponies!
Army Staff Sgt. Gary L. Woods Jr., 24 years of age, of Lebanon Junction, Ky.; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.; died April 10,2009 in Mosul, Iraq, when his vehicle was struck by a suicide bomber.
SSG Woods was known by his middle name “Lee”. Throughout his life, he strived to do the best at any challenge given to him. He was a talented musician who sang and played many instruments, he loved drawing, fishing and camping. He graduated from Bullitt Central High School in 2002.
Although Gary’s mother Becky Manning Woods was unable to attend, friends, staff and the Patriot Guard stood in as Hero’s Rock presented Tessa Levy, Manager of the Fisher House with Gary’s rocker.
Thanks Tessa for a lovely luncheon and special thanks to the Colorado Patriot Guard who got us there safely! You made it so special! Thanks again!
Hero’s Rock is proud to present the Hines, Illinois Fisher House with the Patriotic Pony honoring Army Spc. Michelle Witmer, Wisconsin National Guards first female killed in Combat in Iraq on 4-9-04.
Escorted by the Illinois Patriot Guard Riders, Hero’s Rock rolled into the Hines Fisher House. The presentation of Army National Guard Spc. Michelle Witmer’s rocker was done inside the Fisher House, in the dining area with the Patriot Guard Riders standing as flag bearers. Scott choked up several times as he began to tell the story of the Patriotic Pony rocking horses and about Michelle Witmer.
Unfortunately the Witmer family were unable to attend, but the residents, staff and PGR stood in. Hines VA Hospital Intern Director Marc Magill and Holly Wright (Fisher House Manager & our contact) graciously accepted the rocker and the Heroes book and presented us with a Fisher House coin and a home made quilt in appreciation! (tears)
We all enjoyed a lovely buffet by our hosts and spent the time sharing stories. Holly told us several stories of Fisher House residents who came to know Fisher House as a home away from home. The home and staff are so warm and welcoming, it truly is a special place! Just as we were getting ready to leave, one of the residents that thought they were going home found out they were going to have to stay a while longer. Holly was right there to comfort them………so humbling! (tears)
The sun came out as we began to unload. Army SSG David Nowaczyk’s family who attended the Hines presentation, so Scott brought his rocker out so the family could see it! David’s mom Patti wrote a message on the bottom of the rocker on behalf of the family.
Everyone’s hearts melted as we watched the family look over the rocker that pays tribute to their son. The smiles say it all!
We enjoyed several more stories with the Nowaczyk family and the PG riders. Everyone left with a bigger family! As the hugs, thank you’s and hand shakes ended……….it felt so very incredible to be a part of all of this!
Thank you ALL for helping making this happen!!!! God Bless you, our military, their families and especially our Gold Star Families!
There is A LOT OF GOOD in the world! We just don’t get to see it all!
Hugs & Love
The Old Hippies of Hero’s Rock!
So proud to call Mantua, Ohio our hometown! Being from a small town has so many advantages, but we never could have imagined this!
Today is a day we will remember…..ALWAYS!!!!!
We are so very proud to call Mantua our home! Such a wonderful send off! Seeing this much love and support ………….is truly OVERWHELMING!!!!! Needless to say, we left town a bit choked up and wiping tears from our eyes!
To our military, their families, our fallen and our gold star families….this is ALL FOR YOU!!!!
From the bottom of our hearts….THANK YOU!!!!
LOVE YOU ALL!!!
Scott & Trish (the old Hippies)
The Patriotic Pony mission has patiently waited its turn. From the day our first hero CW2 Christopher Thibodeau’s wife LeeSandra told us what a Fisher House was and how she wanted to “pay it forward” and wished the Fisher House at Dover could have one of our rockers, we have tried to find a way to fulfill her wish.
When we realized how many Fisher Houses there were, we decided to expand her wish and build custom rockers for any Fisher House that wanted one. Turns out there are 64 Fisher Houses across the country and 27 asked for a rocking horse for the children who visited them!
With that large of a project, we knew we had to get as many people involved as possible. And decided the rockers should be painted white with hand prints of red and blue of people from all across the country, showing love and support of our military and their families.
Just when we had worked out all the details our woodshop collapsed! With love and support of so many, we were able to rebuild, bigger and better than before, but the Patriotic Pony mission had a set back of over a year!
We made a promise and we intended to keep it! Once we were up and running, we jump started the Hero’s Rock Thank You Tour and hoped funding would follow.
With less than 2 months before our deliveries were scheduled to start, we had barely gathered 20% of our goal. It was enough to get wood for the horses and rockers, but was no where near where we needed to be.
The Patriotic Pony mission has been rocked with delays; from the woodshop collapse to my injury. Unable to even walk the distance to the woodshop, I cannot help set up for shows, let alone work the shows! The Old Hippie would have had to do it all………if it wasn’t for so many who jumped in to help! From the Gold Star father, Bob Thibodeau who has been here nearly every weekend and more…..to so many others; The Thibodeau Family, the entire Adam Hamilton family, the Logsdon family, Charlene “Charlie” Mann (who has been my arms and legs), Joe Leonard, Liz Eustace, Bob Maclearie, our own boys; Cody Snyder and Joshua Snyder-Hill and so many, many more! It is truly amazing!!!
Still time was running short, as good of toy makers that we are….we are not that good at fundraising! Hero’s Rock is so very unique and so very hard to explain, but you know in an instant when someone truly gets what we do……by the tears in their eyes!
Just as panic was setting in…….a miracle happened! We received a call from Joe Leonard asking us if we had heard about the 50/50 Queen of Hearts Raffle SkyLane Bowling was holding in Garrettsville, Ohio. We had no clue what it was, as he went on to tell us that he had gotten Hero’s Rocks name added to the charities list. Shortly thereafter, we were put in contact with Aaron King of SkyLane Bowling, who explained Hero’s Rock would be the charity to receive the 50/50 funds from their upcoming drawing Sunday, 7/24/2016.
So, when we say, “We have ANGELS watching over us”, we definitely mean it! They often have a warped sense of humor (much like us – lol) and love to torture us every chance they get! But somehow, someway……things just miraculously work out!
On July 24th, the raffle hit an all time high of over $17,000! Netting $8844 for Hero’s Rock…..ensuring the gas money for the delivery of 18 of the Patriotic Ponies across 21 states, over 7,500 miles….just as scheduled!!!
From the bottom of these two Old Hippies’ hearts…………….
THANK YOU ALL SO VERY, VERY MUCH!!!!
Scott & Trish Snyder
God bless our Gold Star Families and all who serve and protect!