Fair Winds and Following Seas

Yesterday we lost a great man, a teammate and a mentor Gary Welt. His battle with ALS ended surrounded with family and loved ones.

No doubt his seat at the table was reserved long ago for he was a man of great deeds. I first meet Gary or I should say Instructor Welt post Hellweek at our first PT. Hanging from the pull-up bar a mangled mess he walked the line inspecting our injuries. I’m sure he had our best interests in mind, but I remember how much it sucked as he went from each student. Finally making it to me and about the only time I could look Gary in the eyes he told me I needed to take care of the wounds, that I didn’t want to be a liability. If you look closely, you can still the scars, but the wounds healed and I never forgot that lesson. We are only as good as our weakest link and it wasn’t going to be me.

I love hearing references like all I really needed to know I learned in kindergarten, except for me, it was BUDS. You can say it is a crash course of sorts, but that was definitely one lesson that will forever be ingrained in my brain housing unit.

I was so very fortunate to be a part of a platoon with Gary. His wealth of knowledge on the medical side was immense, but his knowledge of demolition was nearly equal. I loved learning all the old school tricks and can still remember the kitchen craft. You are only as good as the knowledge base you have as a collective and we were so heavily stacked with Gary there was nothing we couldn’t blow up or, umm rapidly expand.

I lost track of Gary when I moved to the west coast, but he was impacting lives on a larger scale. My job affords me great opportunities and I was asked by a large Metro SWAT team to review a document for a newly coined phrase called TCCC. I opened the document and started to review it’s contents when I noticed the contributors mentioned and while not the highest ranking member by any stretch, I’m sure he was the HMFIC. He was just that way if you knew him.

Shortly there after I reached out to him to catch up and by this time he was down in Florida. It was great and while we hadn’t spoken in years it was as if only a few hours had passed as we reminisced and caught up on family and friends. When I found out Gary had ALS I was shocked just like everyone, but I was also impressed by his never quit attitude. I chuckled when commemorative shirt was made up in his honor with a frog hanging out a storks mouth, but with the frogs hands firmly clutching the storks throat and the caption “never quit.”

We are diminished by his loss, he will be sorely missed, but he touched so many that I am proud to have called him my friend and stood the watch with him. Fair winds and following seas my brother, we’ve got the watch now.

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