In faded jeans and camouflage jackets, teams of four climbed the muddy terrain of Alpine’s Lemon Grove Rod and Gun Club, with 12-gauge shotguns hanging over the crooks of their arms. At The Green Beret Foundation’s first ever Honey Badger Classic, there were 13 shooting stations and each team had to hit as many clay plates, or “pigeons,” as they could. Sporting a metallic blue U.S. Olympics windbreaker, competing alongside his fellow soldiers, was Green Beret and Olympic bobsledder, Nate Weber.
“I’m apparently not very good at shotgun shooting,” said Weber while at station 11. “I’ve been doing nothing but pushing bobsleds for the last year and doing unglamorous office work for special forces. But I don’t think I embarrassed myself too bad.”
This is the first event of its kind for The Green Beret Foundation, an organization that provides casualty, family and transitional support for Green Berets and their loved ones. The purpose of the new and annual Honey Badger Classic is to raise money for the foundation, but also bring both veteran and active duty service members together to commune and share stories while enjoying some cold beers and barbecue glazed ribs.
“I’m new to the world of people asking me to attend their events,” said Weber. “But getting to come out and help fundraise for The Green Beret Foundation where you have some beers, eat great food and go shotgun shooting, that’s something that you don’t really want to turn down.”
Just 36 hours prior to attending the fundraising event, Weber had been in Seoul, South Korea celebrating with his bobsled team on finishing their heats strong. Though Weber and his three bobsled brothers did not win medals, he said they had plenty of triumphs.
“Our pilot had gotten his appendix taken out two weeks before the competition, so the fact that he was even still competing was phenomenal,” said Weber, whose two daughters were also there to watch their father race. “We can go ahead and we can be happy and feel proud about that.”
Even now, back in the states and skeet shooting in the rain with friends and fellow special forces soldiers, the Olympic high still hasn’t worn off for Weber, believing he still hasn’t quite stepped back into reality. The Olympian’s bobsled gloves were even included on the auction table.
“I went from hanging out with my brothers in Seoul, to being put up in a hotel in Coronado where I sat on the beach eating an amazing breakfast, watching the sun come up, and today I’m here at this fundraiser,” said Weber. “But it’s really great to be able to reconnect with everyone and to have them be proud of me and what I did and to know that they’re behind me and by my side supporting me.”
Now, Weber wants to give that support back. In 2016, while he was on deployment in Afghanistan, Weber lost a friend in combat, SSG Adam S. Thomas, and it was Weber who was in charge of bringing his friend back home. Even at the Olympics, Weber wore a T-shirt dedicated to Thomas under his bobsled suit in remembrance.
“To do that for his wife, to let her know his sacrifice will not be forgotten, was a big deal for me,” said Weber. “These guys, [The Green Beret Foundation] they do that for so many people. To be able to support something that has such a bigger effect after I was able to have just a small effect on one person, it was something important to me to come and be a part of.”
During the dinner which followed the skeet shoot, participants had the opportunity to listen to special guest speakers like Weber, Scott Mann (Rooftop Leadership CEO), John Arroyo (2014 Fort Hood Shooting Survivor) and Joe Jung (Horse Soldier) tell their heroic stories and how The Green Beret Foundation impacted their lives.
“We’re usually the quiet professionals, but today, we get to be loud,” said Frances Arias, Development Manager for The Green Beret Foundation.
Megan Rietman, Operations Manager for vScenario and one of the key players who helped coordinate the fundraiser with special forces veterans Ike Atlas and Travis Wilson, added, “Being a part of the reunion, seeing Green Berets share their stories and hearing that this was a moment where they got to hang out and have fun where they’re not in that stressful environment, it’s become a heart and passion for me.”
Weber isn’t entirely sure what future fundraising days are in store as he continues to train and serve, but he says he is looking forward to making his newfound celeb status into something useful.
“There aren’t many people who are in special forces and in the Olympics,” said Weber. “For me to be able to take this small little bit of fame, or whatever you want to call it, and turn it into something good, doing things like this, I’ll take it.”