A Great American and Military Hero has passed away. It’s hard to believe how many lives Gen H Norman Schwarzkopf has touched in his time spent here on earth. He is a legend who loved his country, our freedoms and his family & friends. For a very short moment in time, I and a few of our Managers & Associates were able to meet and converse with this wonderful man.
Our adventure began as we had decided to support and attended a sporting clay fundraiser in Lakeland. The event was being held to raise money for the Children’s Home Foundation located in Tampa, for which General Schwarzkopf was The Honorary Chairman. When I explained that the General would be attending, I had no problem securing shooters for our teams.
Upon arriving at the event, we suddenly became engulfed by a large mass of participants, spectators, vendors and volunteers, embracing our great shooting sports heritage. As we completed our registration, received all our goody bags and shooting instructions, there was still one goal we had not yet accomplished. Find The General. We ventured around the grounds passing several tents, vendors, concessions and buildings, when suddenly, we were stopped in our tracks by one uniquely decorated and patriotic looking golf cart. Fully decked out in red, white and blue banners & accessories, we had hit the jack pot. Now, we wait. As time seemed to stand still and our conversation ceased, the General suddenly appeared. He was dressed from head to toe in his green colored coordinated shooting apparel & gear. It was quite obvious that he was here to have fun, raise some money, shoot some clays, and be competitive. He was ready!
It was remarkable. Humbled, awed and inspired, we gazed upon this gentle giant as we tried to imagine what this man has seen and experienced in his lifetime. A mutual friend and the Event Director Bill Arthur, stepped forward and graciously introduced us to him. Upon completing our handshakes and exchanging some small talk, the General mounted his patriotic golf chariot and headed out to seize the day. The General methodically maneuvered the shooting course stopping numerous times to bust some clays. And along the way, he took time in his travels to mingle amongst the masses, taking hundred’s of photos and signing autographs for all.
Once the event was completed, the crowd methodically assembled for the food distribution and awards ceremony. We were treated to a sensational picnic style luncheon with all the fixins’. As some final announcements were made from the stage area, it was now time for our host Bill Arthur to introduce The Honorary Event Chairman, Gen H Norman Schwarzkopf. The crowd exploded with a long and resounding ovation. Everyone in attendance was standing tall and applauding this Great American. Incredible, Joyous, Amazing!! He spoke to all us and thanked everyone for supporting the Children’s Home event. Little did we know, as we embraced this moment with him, that his health was failing and that this would be his final speech to all of us.
As the event came to a close, General Schwarzkopf was extremely gracious to take some group pictures and sign some autographs with our Bass Pro Shops Orlando Shooting Team. We laughed and joked with him for just a few brief moments in time, that all of us will never forget. Earlier, we had presented the General with a Limited Edition Browning Knife. A small token for his support & achievements. He thanked us with a smile of appreciation that was so warm & genuine. The following year the General did attend Children’s Home event, but was heavily escorted by his wife and daughter Cindy. The patriotic golf cart was not to be found. What became apparent to all of us was, as the seasons of the year change, something else had now changed. We knew that the health of this great man was slowly fading with time.
Many of our younger generations will never know, understand or appreciate the accomplishments, or the precious moments that we spent with this great man. As the sun will rise and set again each day, let us be proud to acknowledge that we live in a country that is free because of our Military and Great Americans like Gen H Norman Schwarzkopf. Today we celebrate the life and accomplishments of this Military Leader & Hero, Husband, Father & Friend. God bless his soul and may he rest in peace. Amen.
By Greg Finenco
Bass Pro Shops Orlando