By Shane Eads – Army veteran, Purple Heart recipient, EMT, and firefighter. Eads competed June 23 in the Mesquite Championship Rodeo military appreciation night.

It all started with being asked by Warriors and Rodeo President Sheri Smith if I would be interested in representing WAR in Mesquite, Texas, at Mesquite Championship Rodeo‘s military appreciation night.  I jumped at the opportunity.  To me that’s what WAR is about, it’s about making a difference, representing veterans – not just in the organization, but all veterans.

I needed somewhere to go Friday night before the Mesquite performance Saturday so I entered a Paris, Texas, event where I finished fourth and was heading into Mesquite with tons of confidence having ridden two of my last four bulls. After Paris, I headed on to Mesquite where I was to stay in the Hampton Inn. It was a very nice hotel, great amenities and right next to the arena, which made it very convenient.

The next morning, I checked out of the hotel, grabbed a bite to eat and watched Army Sgt. John Miller compete in the steer wrestling slack. As I was heading to my vehicle, I ran into John, whom I hadn’t met. We hit it off immediately. He said he was going to go grab some lunch and I was welcome to come, so I joined him. We found out that we had so much more in common than the Army and rodeo. We both do custom leather work. We had tons to talk about.

After lunch, we headed back to the arena and met up with Pepper Stewart and Louie Blankinship. Soon after, the rest of the guys began to show up, which included Randall Mosley and Clifford Miles. We were all there extremely early. The common theme among us, I’m assuming because we are all military, is that we all like to be early.

As the day went on, we met up with Mesquite Rodeo administrator Travis Wheat and he gave us the rundown of how the night would go and how the competition would play out. We started off by watching Louie Blankinship in the first section of bull riding, John Miller and Randall Mosley in the steer wrestling, followed by Clifford Miles in the saddle bronc and then myself in the second section of bulls.

The support of the Mesquite Rodeo staff, Travis Wheat, Pepper Stewart – who interviewed us all for his show – and the crowds love for we veterans was first class. We didn’t have the nights we wanted as competitors, but I feel like Warriors and Rodeo was very professionally represented.

We all felt the pressure and were all aware that this was a huge opportunity for the organization and we treated it as such. I had a great time getting to know the guys. We shared stories of our perspectives of the military and some deployment and post-deployment stories.

I was reminded why I chose to join the organization in the first place.

Thanks again to WAR, Mesquite Championship Rodeo, Travis Wheat, Pepper Stewart and Sheri Smith for everything.

First-class people.