“Dan, it’s Adam!” she called out as he was approaching mile 35 in a grueling 50k race.
Dan Tebo’s salt levels were low and he was having to dig deep around now, but the voice on the other end of the phone his wife handed him was soothing. It was his good friend, Adam Fitzgerald, who’d helped him train to get to this day.
“He worked it out with Hillary to call me during the race to give me that extra boost,” Dan told me later in an interview. And it was just the pep talk he needed to cross the finish line of his second ultra-marathon in October. It took him just under 13 hours.
Dan and Adam make up “21 Guns,” an organization that provides support and assistance to families of America’s fallen service people, from firefighters to military and everything in between.
The friends met last year through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and it was on their minds to create an organization to give back. Dan is an active-duty federal agent in the United States Air Force, and Adam is a pastor at a church in South Carolina but both of them have one passion in common: running.
They began talking about how they could combine their passion for running with helping other people. They knew they wanted to honor America’s service people, but they didn’t want to leave anyone out. “There’s no organizations that included all of our nation’s heroes. We’re going to include all of them and we’re going to give back to the families that have lost a loved one.”
Together they formed “21 Guns,” which is representative of the 21 Gun Salute which honors military or naval personnel.
The 21 Guns Mission Statement
“To honor those who’ve given the ultimate sacrifice by supporting, motivating, and fostering relationships with the families left behind.The heroes will ALWAYS be remembered and their families will NOT be abandoned.”
As part of 21 Guns, Adam and Dan compete in ultra-marathons across the country dedicated to the fallen and their families. They hope to become a non-profit so they can help raise money for the families of the fallen. “It’s about American pride and we have folks that have given their all,” explains Dan.
After 21 Guns was founded, they needed to find a family to honor, but Dan said they didn’t have to look far. The wife of a young serviceman killed over the summer went to Adam’s church to seek assistance in opening up some goverment documents regarding her husband’s death. Adam sat down with her and together they went through the information.
Chief Warrant Officers Kenneth Ryan White and Brad Gaudet were killed when their chopper was shot down in Afghanistan in June. It was White’s 3rd combat tour with the Army, but his first tour in Afghanistan. Officer White leaves behind his wife of 12 years, Sarah, and three children.
Later, Adam asked Officer White’s wife if he could run in honor of the two soldiers and their families and now Dan and Adam are training for a 24-hour in South Carolina called “Delirium” next month dedicated to the soldiers and their families. They hope to cover 100 miles. “It’ll be a huge thing for us personally and why we’re doing it will be a whole ‘nother thing,” he said.
Dan has been running since 7th grade and has always loved running, but admits he’s never been good at it. “I sucked at running, period,” he says. But he kept running anyway. “Personally I loved running and I’ve always looked for a challenge. My dad always challenged me; if it wasn’t challenging, I wasn’t interested,” said Dan. “My dad was extremely proud of me because I didn’t quit.”
And quit he didn’t. Dan continued to run 5ks and half-marathons in college, but he liked the challenge of an ultra-marathon enough to try it last year. Now he’s more than doubling the distance of his first ultra-marathon for this next race.
Dan will be running the Delirium race with Adam, who’s undergone recent physical challenges himself after having over 20 brain surgeries and has cochlear implants to hear. Their families will be their crew. “They provide a heck of a lot of support. If it wasn’t for the crew, we wouldn’t finish,” Dan said. When I asked him if he had any pre-race rituals, he said, “I pray before every race, knee off to the side. It’s sort of a joke,” he said, laughing, because of his last name, “Tebo,” which is spelled different than Denver Bronco quarterback Tim Tebow, who made “Tebow-ing” famous.
And oh yeah. The race will be the first time Dan and Adam actually meet. “We’ve never actually met face to face, we will actually meet in February,” he said. The community has offered 21 Guns support on their mission. They’ve gotten gear, food, and even their hotel stay sponsored. MyRaceRagz.com was proud to provide their shirts.