December 3, 2006
Most of us never stop to ask what we are willing to give up for our country.
Sure, we might give up a few minutes at lunch to vote, or maybe a whole day of work for jury duty. We might even volunteer for some civic event on the weekend.
But every day across the U.S., regular people who have enlisted in the National Guard or the armed services reserves make huge sacrifices for our country. It might be a job, but the gestures these people make are often bigger than any paycheck.
Steamboat Springs ski coach Ty Upson twice has stepped forward to put his life on hold – and in danger – to fight in Iraq.
The Marine, who is a reserve with the 5th Battalion of the 14th Marine Regiment, is one of three men from Steamboat Springs in Battery A. I’m sure there are many more in the Army, Air Force and Navy.
He not only understands what is happening inside Iraq’s war-torn borders, but he believes the U.S. can be successful there. He is passionate about the mission.
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But being a Marine isn’t the only thing Upson is passionate about. He has dedicated his life to ski racing and helping young people succeed on the slopes.
I discovered that Upson was a Marine by accident a year ago. I bumped into him in the Howelsen Hill parking lot, where he told me that he would be gone for a year training and serving in Iraq.
I was surprised at first because he doesn’t seem like a typical Marine, but in hindsight I shouldn’t have been.
I’ve known Upson as a ski coach for years, so I understand that he is dedicated to helping people – especially young people. It doesn’t matter if it’s on the slopes as a coach or in the desert as a sergeant.
It’s nothing for him to spend several hours of his weekend setting gates, fixing racecourses and giving athletes advice on how to win a race. He also gives up his free time to work as a firefighter and a member of Routt County Search and Rescue.
But like so many of the other men and women that serve in Iraq, he’s just another face in another community.
It’s easy to forget that the Americans who are serving in this war are electricians, firefighters and ski coaches. They are parents, sons and daughters. They are the people we see every day at the grocery store, in the post office and at sporting events. They didn’t want to go to war, yet they have committed to helping protect our community here and abroad.
They return to everyday life in much the same way they left it. There is little fanfare and no hometown parades – just the affection from their loved ones and an occasional ‘Thank you’ from the people who are close to them.
While in Iraq, Upson followed on the progress of his Steamboat athletes via e-mail. Skiing became a diversion to help him get through the tougher days.
Upson loves skiing and coaching, but it was just one of the many things he was willing to put on hold for his country, and regardless of whether we support the war, we should all stop and tell him ‘Thanks.’