One of the great pleasures I have experienced since moving to Gonzales has been observing the love and pride Gonzales has for its historic past. From the First Shot and Come and Take It to the Immortal 32 and Runaway Scrape, our community is completely justified to thump its chest about the role this community played in forming the great state of Texas.
On Sunday, for the second consecutive year, the Alamo invited Gonzales to participate in the commemoration of the Immortal 32 arriving at the Alamo on March 1, 1836. 184 years later, 32 men once again answered the call, we honored 32 marched into the Alamo as part of this remembrance and tribute. The experience was amazing.
I was proud to be a part of the Immortal 32 celebration for the second year. Marching with the likes of Judge David Bird, Ricky Walker, Rob Brown, Dan Blakemore, Reid Means, George Reese, John Stone, Bart Priest and others for the second time was a remarkable experience and one I will never forget.
As cool as the reenactment of the arrival of the Immortal 32 was, another special event occurred over the weekend that was a wonderful tribute to the 32 men who died. Let me tell you the story.
On Saturday morning, I received a text from an unknown phone number asking me to call. The message said the sender wanted information on the Immortal 32 event going on at the Alamo the next day. After I perused the text, I called and was introduced to Mr. Chuck Ogden. What he said blew me away.
Ogden informed me his son Terrence and his friend Keith Busby were walking from Gonzales to the Alamo! They had left Gonzales at 3 a.m. in the morning and were just west of Belmont. We chatted, and he gave me Terrence’s phone number.
I immediately called his son, and Terrence and I had a brief conversation. He said they were walking to the Alamo to pay tribute to Texas Independence Week and remember the Immortal 32. One was carrying a Come and Take It flag and the other was carrying the state flag of Texas. We commiserated a few minutes before I asked him to send pictures of Keith and him walking. He agreed to send the pictures and I told him I would meet them at the Alamo on Sunday. He sent two pictures right away; one was a picture of Keith and himself and the other was a picture of Terrence holding the Come and Take It flag and a Texas flag.
I thought it was cool and posted it on our Facebook page right away. I received a few messages from Terrence and his father during the day and into the evening and became even more impressed with their journey the more I thought about it.
As Sunday dawned, I pointed my car west on I-10 and headed towards San Antonio. When I got closer to the Alamo I started looking for the pair. Then I got a call from Chuck and he said the men were still about three miles away. I offered to pick them up but Chuck said they would refuse a ride after having come as far as they had. We talked about timing and I agreed to stay behind after the Immortal 32 ceremony ended at 11:30 a.m.
Around 12:30 p.m., the phone rang.
“They have made it,” Chuck said. “They are right in front of the Alamo now.”
I walked to the front and immediately saw the men with their flags standing proudly with their families. I walked over and introduced myself, and there were handshakes and smiles all around. We took pictures and I asked them if they were thirsty.
“Heck yes,” Terrence said. “It’s been a long journey.”
I offered to buy them a beer and their children a soda if they wanted to follow me to the Menger Hotel across the street. They immediately agreed. When we walked into the Teddy Roosevelt bar at the Menger, all the Gonzales people who attended the Immortal 32 celebration gave Terrence, Keith and their families an ovation. Their smiles were as big as Cheshire cats.
“How do you feel after being awake 34 straight hours?’’ I inquired.
“I have blisters on my blisters,” Keith chimed in. “It was tough—I hit the wall about 4 a.m. this morning and wasn’t sure why I had agreed to do this. I thought that I was going to have a heart attack and die on a frontage road of I-10 in the middle of the night. The walk was definitely playing with my head.”
“I could tell Keith was struggling during the night and that we were both about to deal with our demons,” Terrence chimed in. “He had fallen about a ¼ mile behind and I walked back to see how he was and encouraged him to keep his feet moving. We both took turns encouraging each other.
“I was never so happy to see a sunrise in my life.”
When asked about the genesis of this walk, Terrence said it had been his idea from the beginning.
“I wanted to do something to honor Texas Independence week and this idea popped into my head,” Terrence said laughing. “Our family had just moved to Wimberley about eight months ago and I needed someone to go along with my crazy idea. I met Keith just after moving into town, and when I asked him if he was interested his immediate answer was ‘when do we start?’ So that’s how it came to be.”
The men have only known each other eight months, but it’s clear they have a close bond and their wives and families like hanging out with each other.
“We have other ideas and thoughts about doing something like this again in the future,” said Keith “but we haven’t quite figured out what to do next. Terrence said something about trying to set the record on climbing to the eight peaks in the Guadalupe Mountains out in west Texas. I need to let my feet rest first!”
Terrence said that his original motivation was to honor Texas Independence Week and the Immortal 32, but he was moved to create a cause for their efforts.
“Yes, we have raised some money for this endeavor,” Terrence stated solemnly. “We are raising money for 22KILL, a PTSD initiative that help veterans and first responders who are having PTSD issues. Every 22 seconds a veteran or first responder commits suicide and we wanted to raise money to provide emotional and physical help to these heroes. That’s where all the money is going.”
The men both have good memories of their walk, including all the waves and support they got along the way. They saw some glorious old houses and loved walking the countryside. After interviewing Terrence and Keith for half an hour I had an epiphany about bringing these two families to Gonzales to experience our town first-hand. I invited them to the Gonzales Inquirer Come and Taste It Craft Beer and Wine show and told them I would give them complimentary tickets to the show and put them up at a local hotel.
The men, wives and children smiled and it was quickly agreed they will be here in April. They will be introduced to the festival attendees on the evening of Saturday evening April 25 right before the introduction of Augie Meyers.
If interested in donating to 22KILL, go to GoFundMe at Immortal 32 Ruck.