You’re Not Invincible
CHIEF WARRANT OFFICER 2 ROLAND T. RYE
1st Battalion, 206th Field Artillery Regiment
Arkansas Army National Guard
It was a beautiful spring morning. The sun was shining and the temperature was just right. As I rode my motorcycle down the road, I didn’t have a care in the world. The feel of the wind in my face, the rumble of the engine and the sunrise before me — today was going to be a good day. I was 16 and invincible. I had my whole life ahead of me, and the world was mine to rule. I knew more than the adults and didn’t need their advice … or so I thought.
I rounded a curve and headed toward the school parking lot. When I arrived, my friends were all there. We liked to meet before school to discuss the day — the classes we didn’t like, what we were doing for lunch, what this person said about someone else. It was the typical high school life.
At some point, a group of us decided to go to the overpass. The overpass was known to be the local drag strip, and kids would go there to race or just hang out and watch. I knew better than to go. My dad had always warned me to stay put. I can still hear him today — “Son, when you get where you’re going, park it!” He was always full of advice and telling me what to do. Another of his favorites was, “The more you do something, the more likely you are to mess it up.” I cleaned up that one a little. I think my dad was a sailor in a former life. But what did he know?
I arrived at the overpass to find that I was the first one there. Not a big deal; I would just wait on my friends. When no one showed up after about 10 minutes, I decided they weren’t coming, so I headed back to the parking lot. First, though, I decided to make a “pass.” What was the harm? It was early morning and there was no traffic. What could possibly go wrong? It turned out to be a near fatal mistake.
I rode up to the overpass bridge, turned around and proceeded to do a burnout. I held the front brake and watched in awe as the smoke came off the rear tire. That little 250 Honda was quite impressive. As the tire smoke swirled around me, I eased off the brake and let the bike inch forward. I had to make sure the tire was good and sticky for traction. I then leaned forward, revved the engine and released the clutch. I was off!
I started down the strip toward the school. I felt alive, like nothing could stop me. I watched as the speedometer climbed — 30, 40, 50, 60 mph. I was getting close to the finish line and the adrenaline was pumping through my veins. The rush was so intense. That’s when it happened.
As I neared the finish line, there was a blind hill ahead of me. What I saw coming over it made my heart stop. One of my friends had decided to come see what I was doing. Beside him, in the wrong lane, was a 1-ton GMC flatbed truck heading right toward me. There was no time to stop and nowhere to turn. Just as you always hear, everything was in slow motion. My life was passing before my eyes. I remember thinking that I should have stayed at school, how I had just had my bike painted with a custom job and how bad this was going to hurt. Was I going to live through it? And, most importantly, I should have listened to my father.
My bike and I met the front of that 1-ton truck with a combined force of 140 mph. I remember lying in the ditch, wondering how bad it was and how mad my dad was going to be. I remember trying to get up, knowing I needed to get to school, but no one would let me move. It seemed like an eternity. Then I heard the sirens. The ambulance was on the way and I knew it was bad.
I spent a week in the hospital. I broke my jaw, nose, three bones in my wrist and had more than 300 stitches, most of which were in my face. I couldn’t open my mouth for a month and it took about three months of physical therapy before I was even remotely close to normal. I thank God every day that I’m alive.
I tell this story in hopes that it encourages others to stop and think. Yes, I lived, but not everyone is so lucky. I did a lot of things wrong, but I did a few right. I never rode without my leather jacket, pants or helmet. Sound familiar? Sounds a lot like the Army’s definition of PPE.
As summer approaches and the temperatures begin to warm, I would like to remind others to be safe. Remember to wear all your proper PPE. It just may save your life. I know it did mine.