Good morning this morning!
Today, exactly two years ago, I was nothing short of excited to share with you 200 GUD reasons why. It was a momentous celebration of not only reaching 200 handyman clients, but also the announcement of the new truck!
Man was I excited!
I vividly remember talking to the Project Manager, Dez, about the longevity of the wrap. She said that it's got a really good life span, however, knowing you, you'll likely want a change in the next few years or so.
I said you're wrong! - there's no way!
I loved my wrap! It was a beautiful and a perfect blend of my personalities and businesses. A real pizza & beer combination!
When I would drive it around town, or even pull into my neighborhood, everyone knew it was me. It reminded me of when I was a kid with my 1970 Camaro Z28.
I borrowed $1,500 from a loan shark and during my senior year in high school and I bought the Camaro from my good buddy, Chris Pike | RIP. His Mom threw a piston rod in the motor, so I bought it broken and at a steal! - Thanks Diana! :)
Aside from it being an awesome car! The part I loved about it is that it was loud and noticeable from anywhere.
Similarly so, now with my GUD truck, friends, family and clients would know it was me in the parking lot - even on the freeway.
Although not shown in the picture above, the part that made the wrap uniquely special to me was the rear view window screening.
"Living a life worth of their sacrifice"
These words were coined by Miss Debbie Lee, founder of America's Mighty Warriors, a non-profit organization we are highly involved with.
When I would drive the truck I felt like I was conveying a message of significance; one that really mattered. Sure I appreciated having my phone number and business contact info on it, however, that didn't motivate people to fly out of their way on the road to come up next to me, honk their horn and stick out a big thumbs up and give me an "air five fist bump" while driving! This wasn't the only time something like this happened and every time it happens, it startles me! Largely because I'm expecting the bird! But seeing and feeling the message resonate with someone beyond myself, one who I've never met, that really affects me. Even deeper... It wasn't the real estate logo on my truck that made an old salty Marine start crying when he met me for the first time. There, a silvery-haired man is standing in the middle of his driveway, shadowed by a flying America Flag. He's in blue jeans and a white t-shirt, wearing a Vietnam hat with a cigar in his left cheek. Once I step out from the truck and round the corner, there he is, pointing at me with his walking cane saying "you've already told me everything I need to know about you!" I cannot make this shit up! I legit have tears in my eyes as I recall this special memory. I did not know he served! I did not know they had lost a son due to a TBI where he took his own life?! :( But when I pulled up, he knew that someone else cared. Even though I did not know them or their son, it was as if I had known them all along. It was these seven powerful words that brought strangers together, now making them friends for life. Many months later, that old salty Marine would give me one of the most meaningful compliments I've ever received. He said, in the foxholes of Vietnam, we could have used a man like you. For me, coming from such a man, a man that's survived and endured more than I can comprehend - to be told that at a deep and genuine level is something I will never forget. Ultimately the back window screening didn't survive the Arizona summers very long. The color white does not hold up well with our heat as it started to yellow and roll up along the edges. Sadly, I had to take it off. This would be the last photo I have of the truck with these powerful words. Here it pairs well with the rider of our real estate sign and our client's American Flag. *Our client here also lost her son; sadly taking his life after serving in combat. :(
After I reluctantly took the screening off, all that was left for public awareness was the handmade field cross we had in our front yard - which was good... But as silly as it sounds, the truck just felt lonely.
For some unknown reason, the year of 2022 was life changing and life defining for me. I cannot explain why or what, but self improvement, self discovery has its costs. I was lost in my own way. Lost in purpose, lost in personal and professional identity. I wasn't sad, but I was sad. Something was going on inside me and for those who knew me best, it had been going on in the background for months. I believe that when the screening started to come off was the universe trying to tell me that my life was due for new tires and a reboot. As if the project manager knew me like a good friend would... I barely made it 18 months with the GUD wrap and only 3 months without the significant message. Following a weekend of yard work while listening to my own kind of motivational affirmations, I couldn't take it anymore - I took the wrap off.
A literal hard stop, cold reboot.
Talk about stripping down naked and just being there! Ugh! like a self-inflicted bad dream come true. Naked as a M-Fer! My wife hated it! Shit! She didn't even know I did it! My neighbors couldn't stand it! I actually had to present a business card at a main gate to get into a neighborhood for a job - of which I had been going to for years! It was as if someone, me, took off all my tattoos and threw them away. Over the course of time I was going through a metamorphosis, like a very deep level of purpose and intentionality. Although it wasn't fun taking the wrap off, it was necessary. What kept driving at me were those impacting words, "Living a life worthy of their sacrifice". I had already been without them for months now, but this felt different. Not that I didn't know what they meant, I guess I just had immense clarity to the emotion of what that meant to me. So I leaned into that feeling. For me and where I am in life, those seven words combined are the most powerful I have ever heard. They are words that memorialize those who are no longer here in the physical, mental, or emotional. Whether it be our Military, First Responders, or even those who've served in a capacity that changed your life. Combine that significance with the mindset of "being grateful". Together, they are a call to action:
Live your life worthy of their sacrifice, be grateful.
There's no shortage of me being a grateful man as I have fully embodied that word for the rest of my life. This is a quiet advantage, however, it's on my arm to keep me grounded and always remember.
When I look back on my life recalling the family and friends that have passed away, it's those words t
hat have given me strength and the ability to forge forward in their absence. Since they can't - I can. I will. I must. Living this way doesn't make things easier, but it can make it less lonely at times. I believe that it's through the actions of you, being intentional in how you conduct yourself with the world; in effect you are living vicariously through the spirit of them, with them. Sacrifice doesn't stop at living and breathing. The harder to spot, harder to serve are those who are still here, but have sacrificed a large portion of themselves. Whether it be chronic PTSD they're struggling with, or maybe a severe injury that's obvious or even worse, not obvious at all. There are also the Gold Star families that lost their loved ones in combat. Or the families who've lost a Police Officer, or Fire/Paramedic, all of which someone has sacrificed everything. The outcome of that loss now leaves a pit of grief and pain inside that surviving family member forever. With a profound sense of clarity, I reached back out to Dez and said ok! let's do this again! Dez introduced me to her designer, Alexis, and from the middle of October through January we coordinated on the design. Due to my overly detailed nature, I believe we ended up with nine revisions and two completely different designs. In the end, it was entirely worth the effort.
Picking it up that afternoon left me with nothing more than being wrapped with emotion.
As with most people of our generation, many can remember September 11th, 2001 with incredible clarity. Most can easily recall where they were and what that day did to them. The people who went into combat that day were our first responders. The men and women of our Fire and Police departments were called upon to help us in the darkest of hours as our country got turned upside down. The fallout of that situation was that our troops were next in line to go to combat. As shitty and horrible a day as that was, I rest easy knowing that although a handful of cowardice people terrorized thousands, it was thousands of people who rushed in to save and help. ~that gives me chills. Knowing how much our first responders do for society, especially after being called upon on 9/11, it was very important to me that the flag include all the necessary tribute colors: Red, Fire Blue, Police Green, Military.
Although the field cross is synonymous with the military exclusively, the scripture quote John 15:13, pertains to everyone in public service and the military.
"Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends."
When working with Alexis, I told him that I wanted the wrap to be unlike any of the other patriotic vehicle wrap. I gave him an overall backstory to the intent and he was quickly on board. I wanted it to have a grunge-like-feel as opposed to hyper clean and traditional. So he added the random black and white flecks throughout the entire wrap to distress the final look.
To add more personality to the design, Alexis was able to incorporate my "Grateful" tattoo and seamlessly merge its fluidity into the entire message. Just below is a QR code, the only thing to connect the dots to me personally, and professionally.
Should any passer buyer want to know more, once scanned it takes them to GratefulMan.com where they can read more about the truck, read this blog post and get in contact with me.
The first time I saw a field cross in person was at my good buddy Chris Pike's funeral in 2013.
Late one night I got a text from a high school friend of mine: Hey man, have you seen the news? Did you hear about Chris?
With a few short searches on Google I came to find out Chris had been killed in combat. :(
The last time I really hung out with Chris, we were just kids, a year or so out of high school. We'd go to the desert and make large ass bonfires and do other stupid shit. Here Chis is being Chris... jumping over a big ass fire.
That summer back from Tucson, driving the now fixed up Camaro, he gave me this birthday card... What an asshole! lol!
It wasn't until just a few years ago did I stumble upon this card... somewhere back in the day I put it away for safekeeping. Fast forward to now after his passing, I am SOOO happy I hung onto it for all these years. ~my gosh! I always thought I'd hear that he died in a motorcycle accident, or doing crazy like shit. But instead, here a childhood best friend has been killed in combat, having passed away in the very hospital where I was born, Landstuhl, Germany, and has come home to rest.
His eulogy forever changed my life.
I had so much respect, so much pride that he became who he did, all knowing the boy before the man. I would never have guessed my crazy ass friend would die on a rooftop in Afghanistan, providing intelligence for Seal Team 5.
I was beyond moved.
I hadn't seen or talked to him in more than a decade, yet after attending his funeral it stayed with me for days. I vividly recall coming home, laying in bed with my only son at the time, and crying. Crying in sadness, crying in amazement. It was one of those funerals where I was able to check myself where I wanted to live a life with no regrets, one so full that when I'd die, I would die on empty. The crazy part was that this was many years before I would meet Miss Debbie Lee, now whom I call Momma Lee, she said the words "Live a life worthy of their sacrifice".
I was already acting on it and I didn't even know!
It was Chris in his full life that showed me to lighten up and led me to not be such a stiff. It was Chris in his death that gave me the courage to step outside my comfort zone which ultimately motivated me to pursue so many different things. Chris knew that when he went to work, the decisions he would make, he risked the possibility of never coming home. That allowed me to process the difficult decisions that would normally leave me in a complacent, safe, and apprehensive state. Instead, knowing that this would not kill me, and that I can do this, and if he were here, he definitely would.. that left me with no excuses. Within my first year of full time, self employed real estate, I answered a call that further compounded the momentum Chris's passing gave me. I was introduced to a sweet lady named Robin. Once we came to know each other better, she told me that her son Rob Guzzo was part of Seal Team 5. Robin was a well ranked Naval Officer herself and Rob's Dad, Rob Sr, was also a Navy Seal. Thankfully Rob made it back home after having been deployed. Sadly though, on Veterans day in 2012, Rob would take his own life.
This drew attention to another layer of reality that I had not been privy to. There are unseen wounds our combat vets face once they're home. Rob had already been home a number of years and his death would be a surprise to everyone who loved him as not all wounds are visible. One of the deaths that Rob took so hard was the sudden passing of Marc Lee, the first Navy Seal killed in the Iraq War. Marc was killed leading his team out of a combative situation. It was not his role to be in front, it was his decision to be in front. He was acting on selfless intentions to get his team into a safe place, ultimately that decision cost him his life. Here Rob is outside Camp Marc Lee, wearing Marc Lee's commemorative patch.
It was through serving Robin that ultimately introduced me to Debbie Lee, now Momma Lee, that forever changed my life. It was through the words of Marc Lee's last letter home, written just a few weeks before his passing. ~powerful
Today, my family and I regularly donate to the America's Mighty Warrior Foundation in the names of our friends and our clients. Since 2017 we've raised/donated nearly $23,000 to help make a difference. Their mission Is to honor the sacrifices of our troops and the fallen, and their families by providing programs that improve the quality of life, resiliency and recovery.. $9 out of $10 goes back to fulfilling their mission. When I am not working with my tools, I'm almost always wearing one of these three bracelets.
So for the tailgate, this just made sense to me...
This is the actual photo of Chris coming off the airplane when he arrived stateside. Unlike Marc and Rob's Gold Navy Seal Trident, Chris's is Silver. When he wanted to try out for the teams he came to find out that he had a rare blood disorder that prohibited him from even trying. Chris was one of the best cryptologists the Team's had come across - they did not care that he never went through hell week, they wanted them on their team regardless. In honor of his heroism having died with Seal Team 5, I tribute his efforts this way. Before I could write this blog post, it was absolute that I shared this completed wrap with Chris's mother, Diana, beforehand. Ahead of time I had asked her permission to use the picture, but beyond that, that's all she knew was happening.
Here outside of his childhood home, this picture is worth a thousand words. There was something special about being there with Diana that made this effort that much more meaningful. Losing a child is something that I hope to never face, however being there with her, something told me that she really needed to see this. In the quietness of grief it feels like you're the only one who misses them.. being there showed that there were others who missed him too. On my drive home I cried the entire ride back. I had to drive around the block extra so my eyes could clear up before my next appointment. Over the 10 week preparation of the wrap's completion, I deliberately changed the license plate's style to reflect and support Public Service and also include the message of sacrifice, SELFLES. Along with that, for contextual details to the message, a punisher trailer hitch.
Here Marc Lee and Chris Kyle, both have painted the punisher on their gear.
And you can't have a punisher on the back and not rock one on the hood covered in grunge stars.
With a week's time under my belt I am still not used to the completed wrap. I honestly just want to stop and stare at it, no matter where I am.
I am happy to report however, I have had more than a fair amount of air-five, fist bump, thumbs up, and honks in the past week than I can recall. No matter the mood I'm in, or how startling it may be, it always brings a smile to my face as it's the powerful message touching another person.
Live your life worthy of their sacrifice, be grateful
Rest in peace Chris, Rob, and Marc ~ you are not forgotten. If this resonated with you, please share it with a friend. :)
I need to give a special thanks to the PRI Graphics Team as they are responsible for making this wrap possible.
https://www.prigraphics.com/ Dez Lopez managed the project very well! She did an incredible job being supportive while also asking difficult questions to make sure the design and overall intent came out as planned. She even sent me pictures of small details that bothered her. Such as an easy oversite where the antenna got in the way of John 15:13.
A special thanks to Kris Dimitrov for doing an incredible installation. He was very easy to work with and showed tremendous patience with taking the wrap off and putting it back on to make sure the vision the PRI team had with the final product.
And none of this would be possible if Alexis Chilaca hadn't been so creatively talented and patient! Personally, I am a highly detailed creative person, however what Alexis can do is something I lack the ability to do. This puts me in a very vulnerable spot of letting go. He showed tremendous patience while allowing me to "Steve Jobs the hell out of this project" as we created and edited a number of designs.
And lastly, and most importantly, thank you Diana, Robin, and Momma Lee for allowing and trusting me to put the names of your boys on my truck. ~I do not take that for granted. No matter how dark the night, or how dark the time's, the sun will rise in the morning. Have a grateful weekend!