presented by Chief Warrant Officer Brian L. Peterson
Chief Warrant Officer, California National Guard
evening Carol, General Officers, fellow service members, family and friends of
Chuck Lyda, ladies and gentlemen. It is an honor to stand before you this evening
and have the opportunity to offer a few words about our fellow soldier, teammate,
competitor, husband, and friend, Chuck Lyda.
My formal military and
competitive sports relationship with Chuck began during the early summer of 1991
at the Auburn Ski Club. At that time, a small group of us in the California National
Guard were members of the National Guard Bureau Marathon All-Guard Team and we
were invited to train for the Guard Bureau-sponsored Summer Biathlon Competition
at Camp Ripley, Minnesota. Chuck, of course, was one of the veterans of the winter
version who was present to show us the basics and help us train. Since many of
us had little or no experience with Summer Biathlon -- the sport of running and
rifle marksmanship -- Chuck's mentorship was greatly appreciated.
many things I suspect he did in life, Chuck shared his knowledge and expertise
of the subject matter, showed a great deal of patience for the novices amongst
us, and at times, complimented us on our progression. And even though I really
thought he was being generous most of the time with his compliments, I later realized
that it was simply his way of building confidence in others. That, to me, was
one of the defining characteristics of Chuck Lyda.
I remember being told
that he had broken his ankle while ski jumping that past winter and was not at
his normal fitness level by the time that training rolled around. But, as many
of us here tonight know, that had little or no meaning to Chuck because he was
a true competitor. And as we trained, I recall that despite his weak ankle, he
ran those ski club trails more aggressively than we could because he was an exceptional
athlete and a competitive warrior. And but for Chuck's coaching, team membership,
and overall support to the novices amongst us, we would not have performed as
well as we did as a team of California National Guard Summer Biathletes.
the early winter that followed, Chuck converted some us, including Charles Locke
and me, to cross-country ski skating along with the help of then Carol Shick and
Doug Brown, all of whom had long perfected the style and grace of that form of
skiing on the skinny skis. And as we slowly transformed into Winter Biathletes,
Chuck taught us everything we needed to know -- proper technique, ski prep and
waxing, weapon care and safety, strategy -- but more importantly, how to push
ourselves a little harder each time we trained and competed. He always made the
sport look easier than it was. And, he would always share those famous words of
wisdom: "ski fast and shoot straight." That is a phrase to remember
And who could forget how Chuck had the ability to make things
painful for some us in Winter Biathlon, especially in the Military Patrol Race.
The format is simple -- four team members, skiing as one unit along the course
with the senior-most military member, usually Chuck, serving as the Team Leader
who, by the way, does not shoot but merely directs the sequential fire of the
other three team members on the range.
In this patrol format there was
inevitably one team member who earned the dubious and dreaded title of "whipping
boy." It was a term of affection used to describe the slowest skier on the
team -- slowest being a relative term -- and on occasion, Charles Locke and I
had been the "whipping boys." That was the last thing you wanted to
be if you were on a patrol team with Chuck Lyda as it was a painful and humiliating
experience for several notable reasons.
First, you had Chuck skiing right
on your tail and yelling to make you move faster, particularly on the up-hills
which caused a great deal of anxiety along with burning legs and lungs. Chuck
often said that Winter Biathlon was an enjoyable experience, and it was -- for
But even worse, he was usually carrying my rifle and occasionally,
another team member's, as well. You see, in the patrol format, all shooters have
to start and finish not only with their teammates but also with their individual
weapons. And of course, have them in their possession when they enter the range
to engage the targets. But there was no rule that precluded one team member, usually
the strongest skier, from carrying one or two weapons along the course and safely
passing the weapons back to the shooter or shooters at the appropriate time. This
strategy, theoretically, allows the slower member to ski lighter and faster without
the added weight of a rifle on one's back. But as you might expect with Chuck,
carrying one or more weapons did not slow him down in the least - it just made
him work harder. So, a "whipping boy," under those circumstances, had
little about which to complain. And after it was all over and we finished as a
team, it no longer mattered -- until the next time.
speaking of team patrol events, though I cannot attest from personal observation,
there is a legend which has been passed down in the Guard Biathlon Program over
the years. The legend involves the creative use of a bungee cord tied from stronger
skiers to another team member for the purpose of towing, and this was tried at
least once until the rules were changed in order to prevent anything such as that
occurring in the future. The legend goes on to suggest that Chuck and Doug Brown
may have collaborated in that creative effort.
And one other thing, Chuck
would always pick a particular race during the National Guard Biathlon Championships
at Camp Ripley andthe team member who shot the poorest during that race bought
ice cream for the rest. It was a sure bet for Chuck. You see, he seemed to like
ice cream -- Dairy Queen Blizzards, mostly -- and there happened to be a Dairy
Queen in Little Falls, the nearest town in proximity to Ripley. And, as you might
expect, Chuck ate a lot of free Blizzards.
Over the years, it was my good
fortune to know Chuck and Carol better. And I am reminded of the time the three
of us skied the Minnesota Finlandia in Bemidji, Minnesota, together. Actually,
Carol and I skied the race together since Chuck was never seen again after he
rocketed away at the start. It was an extremely cold day and there were a few
times when I asked myself "why I am I doing this when I could be relaxing
in a warming hut and enjoying hot soup" -- Why not just quit? Well, the answer
was quite simple -- what would I tell Chuck? "I quit?" What was worse:
being a little cold and tired, or telling Chuck I gave up because I was uncomfortable?
Well, Carol and I finished that race.
both Carol and Chuck had a great influence in my introduction to Orienteering,
the sport of map and compass, and I enjoyed the various events from which I was
able to learn from both of them. In 1997, several of us, including Chuck, Rick
Oliver, and Charles Locke, traveled to Minnesota to compete in the Veterans World
Cup for Orienteering and we billeted at Camp Ripley, not far from the venues.
And, this is pure Chuck -- each day after competition, we would all meet in the
day room at the billets with our individual race maps and Chuck would take the
time to review the routes we had chosen that day, share his knowledge and experience,
and offer critique so that we might improve in the next event.
In our last
team competition together a few years back, we were joined by another military
friend, Paul Mackenzie, to form a master's division relay team for the run-cycle-paddle
triathlon known as Eppie's Great Race.
Chuck said the plan was to have fun but I knew he was there to compete as a paddler.
You see, fun was for the other people and, after all, he had won this race as
an individual Ironman in 1980 and set a course record in doing so. At the end
of the day, Chuck made up a lot of time on the water and we finished very well
thanks to him.
Allow me to close by saying that all of us here tonight
know that Chuck loved sport, competition, new challenges, sharing his knowledge
and experience, coaching, leading, instilling confidence -- all of those things,
He seldom, if ever, spoke about himself or his world-class level
accomplishments. I perceive that he was dedicated to his dear wife, Carol, anything
having to do with the great out-of-doors, the military, and his Nation. God Bless,