John F. Russell: Hooked on Heavy Medal

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John Russell

John Russell's sports column appears Sundays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by John here.

— Twelve days touring islands in the Pacific Ocean might seem like a vacation for some, but for Steamboat Springs resident Mike Lane, the trip is not about getting away. This trip is about giving back and, in some ways, going back.

Lane, public relations director for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., will escort 1992 Olympic bronze medalist Nelson Carmichael, three-time Olympian Caroline Lalive, world champion rower Sean Colgan and two-time Olympian Kaylin Richardson on the Armed Forces Entertainment’s Heavy Medal III tour from April 29 to May 10.

He will act as the group’s public relations liaison and photographer.

Lane, the athletes and Warrior Tours founder Rob Powers will try to make the most of their days visiting military bases in the Pacific in places such as Guam and Japan. Their goal is to meet as many service members as possible and offer thanks to the military personnel families who are stationed thousands of miles from home.

Lane will trade in some of his vacation time for 18-hour days, a nonstop schedule and late-night hours spent filing stories and posting photographs to document the trip.

So why in the world would he, or anyone else, want to do this?

“The joy and excitement you see is pretty amazing,” Lane said. “This is one of the most rewarding experiences that I’ve ever had, and I’m just glad to be a part of it.”

Lane said the smiles on the faces of American servicemen and servicewomen he saw as a volunteer for Heavy Medal II in July made it all worth it.

Lane has volunteered on the Warrior Tours Senior Advisory Group for years, but he took a more active role in summer when he traveled with Olympian Todd Lodwick and astronaut Steve Swanson to visit military bases in Cuba as part of Heavy Medal II.

Lane never has been in the military, but he does have a personal connection. He says he can relate to the men and women he meets on bases across the world and knows how important a visit can be to someone far from home.

Lane’s father was in the Army. Lane was born in Okinawa, Japan, and spent most of his life bouncing from base to base across the world. He spent two years living in Saudi Arabia when he was in elementary school, so he understands what a small reminder of home can mean.

“I know that my childhood is one of the reasons I wanted to do this,” Lane said. “When you are stationed in a foreign country, you come to appreciate and value of what we have here. This is my chance to give back to the men and women who are serving our country.”

But Lane insists he’s not the real story. He praised Powers for making Heavy Medal a reality, and he praised the athletes who make the trips.

He says he’s just there to record the moments, take a few photographs and, in a small way, bring those servicemen and servicewomen a little closer to the country they are serving.

—To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209 or e-mail jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.

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