“Memorial Day weekend is the time we set aside to honor the lives and the sacrifices of our military and their families,” Lisa Roten Lorbiecki, of Greenville, says. “It is a time to reflect on the people who have fought for our freedom, who have shown great courage and bravery, and ultimately gave their lives doing so.”
Lorbiecki chose to honor her brother, Staff Sgt. David B. Roten Jr., with the inaugural Hard Hitter GORUCK & Ride to benefit the Green Beret Foundation over Memorial Day weekend, May 25-26. This event, which is part of a nationwide network of events, honors those who lost their lives in service both to the United States and their families.
Like so many others, Lorbiecki has experienced firsthand the grief of losing a loved one, which is why she brought the event to Greenville. “Not a day goes by that I don’t miss him terribly,” she says. “Honoring those who have died in service to our country is one way I can channel that grief to make a difference. And it’s special to be able to do it in a way that engages our community.”
Unlike last year’s bike-only event, this year the dual Hard Hitter GORUCK & Ride makes its debut. Participants can choose to do either a GORUCK challenge or a bike ride, or both.
“The two GORUCK events are inspired by the most elite training offered to Special Forces soldiers and led by Green Berets. The GORUCK is a team event, building toughness, teamwork, and trust,” Lorbiecki says.
For those wanting to prove their capability to themselves and their team members, participants can choose between the GORUCK Tough (takes 10-12 hours) and the GORUCK Light (takes 4-5 hours).
“Anyone can sign up. If you’re not an experienced cyclist, we recommend doing the 10- or 30-mile ride. Or challenge yourself in another way by doing the GORUCK Light or Tough,” Lorbiecki says.
On May 26, three open-road bike rides led by cyclists at Carolina Triathlon will offer participants an opportunity to ride for a cause. The two longer rides include SAG support and rest stops.
The celebration and memorial cookout, including food and beer, will occur on Welborn Street near Carolina Triathlon after the rides and before the departure of the GORUCK Light.
The honoree, Roten, served as a decorated Special Forces weapons sergeant in the United States Army. He was honorably discharged in 2010 and supported the U.S. government in austere environments. Roten was killed in action on Nov. 27, 2014.
“He lived and served with unwavering commitment, passion, and courage, always pushing himself beyond his limits to be the very best,” his sister says. “In how he both lived and died, he inspired others to greatness and continues to do so to this day. It is that spirit that inspired and is celebrated during this Memorial Day weekend dual event.”
The event gets its name from the Hard Hitter Award, which originated in 2006 with the leaders of Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 043 during Operation Iraqi Freedom in Baghdad.
“The purpose of the award was to honor the best performing, most dependable, and hardest working operator each week,” the GORUCK website reads. “SSG David B. Roten Jr. was awarded the weekly Hard Hitter Award more than any other member of ODA 043. Subsequently, SSG Roten was recognized and honored as ODA 043’s first annual Hard Hitter awardee and was presented with the coveted and hard-earned sledgehammer.”
To honor Roten’s sacrifice, Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) carried on the tradition with the creation of the annual Dave Roten Hard Hitter Award given to one of the 100 men in the company.
Lorbiecki knows her brother would approve of such an event as the Hard Hitter GORUCK & Ride that brings everyone together to test their limits and be active. “He loved adventure and pushing his limits physically. From rock climbing, marathons, and triathlons to surfing and cliff diving, he loved being active,” she says.
“What an honor to get to be a part of continuing his legacy — a privilege to keep the fire alive that burned brightly in him,” Lorbiecki says.
Phil Mahla, who commanded the Special Forces company that Roten served in as a Special Forces NCO, also attests to Roten’s reputation. “Dave was the operations we all aspired to be and was very gifted in the art of being a warrior,” Mahla says.
To further the impact of her brother’s sacrifice, Lorbiecki is giving the proceeds of the event to the Green Beret Foundation, which directly and continuously supports those in the U.S. Army Special Forces and their families. The nonprofit, headquartered in San Antonio, helps Green Berets transition back into civilian life.
“Our ability to enjoy our freedom, to ride bikes and participate in GORUCKs, to raise families and go to work, to enjoy watching our daughters dance or our nephews play baseball, to sleep soundly at night — we can easily forget that there are brave men and women risking their lives day and night to provide us such beautiful freedoms,” Lorbiecki says.
As stated on its website, GBF has provided support to more than 2,515 Special Forces families since its inception, invested more than $8 million supporting its Special Forces community, and continues to spend 88 percent of its operating expenses on GBF programs.
“Every community, including Greenville, owes a debt of gratitude to these individuals,” Lorbiecki says. “The funds raised matter to the Green Beret Foundation, and they matter to Greenville.”
A dual event such as Hard Hitter GORUCK & Ride requires the careful coordinating of many moving parts. “It’s not easy to start an event like this from the ground up, but we are lucky to have good partners and support,” she says. “But when something like this matters to me, all of that is secondary — you just get it done.”
The ever-growing biking community in Greenville provided a great opportunity for Lorbiecki to engage cyclists and benefit the Green Beret Foundation.
“I want people to know this group, to appreciate their bravery, and one of the best ways to do this is to call attention to them by reaching people where they are — sharing the GBF in a way that would resonate with a large, active, vibrant part of our community, who would embrace the event and its cause,” Lorbiecki says.
- GORUCK Light: 7-10 miles, 4-5 hours, May 26 at 2 p.m.
- GORUCK Tough: 15-20 miles, 10-12 hours, May 25 at 9 p.m.
*The GORUCK routes will be posted to goruckandride.com.
- 10 miles: 10 a.m. May 26
- 30 miles: 10 a.m. May 26
- 70 miles: 9 a.m. May 26
*Participants should register online at goruckandride.com as early as possible due to limited registration.
Greenville is a bicycle-friendly community with South Carolina’s first on-street protected bike lane. The Greenville Health System Swamp Rabbit Trail provides 20 miles along the Reedy River for bikers to explore. Greenville strives to encourage safe bicycle travel on shared roads and trails.
- Rucking: carrying a weighted pack on your back
- SAG: acronym for support and gear in biking
- Green Beret: a member of the U.S. Army Special Forces