Bob VanDenbergh A Veteran on the Run keeping his promiseuntitled                                                        Because I Said I Would

                                                                 By Troy Bishopp, The Grass Whisperer

Alex Sheen has inspired me.  Who is Alex you ask?  He is a man who wanted to honor his father’s legacy for always doing one thing:  Keeping a promise.  “My dad kept a promise.  If he said he was going to do it, it would certainly be done. Too often we make promises, little and big, that we do not honor. It becomes easy to say “I’ll get to it” or “tomorrow.” 

Alex’s passion for this idea was so strong he founded a social movement and 501(c)(3) nonprofit, prominently named, Because I Said I Would, ( dedicated to bettering humanity through promises made and kept.

This Veteran’s Day I promised to share a few examples of local folks carrying out a similar mission even under the guise of a few raised eyebrows.  This is a tribute to my dad, Edward, my son-in-law, Travis and the veterans in my life, past and present, for a service predicated on a promise to protect.

The Dalai Lama said, “Compassion is not a religious business. It is a human business. It is not luxury. It is essential for our own peace and mental stability. It is essential for human survival.

When Farmers Amy Yahna and Brian Musician of Alambria Springs Farm with friend Jen Mansky found a horse lying in a nearby field because he fell on the trailer and was pulled off into a field to “die on green pasture” or “get better on his own”,  they promised to rescue and comfort the sick friend against all odds.  The story is now legend as the horse, aptly named, Justin Thyme, has made a hard-fought, miraculous recovery while rallying the hearts of community supporters who invested time and resources into his rehabilitation.DSCF0056

The days were epic in trying to get him to eat, drink and even stand as the farmers would lie with him all night if necessary to witness a spark, a whiney, a twinkle in his eye that the promise they made would be fulfilled.   I can only imagine the joy, pride and emotion when he grazed his first grass and ran around the paddock again all because the farmers and their community adopted the creed:  Because I said I would.  Thank you Amy, Brian and Jen!

Dan Williams of Deansboro, N.Y. has a different story borne out of tragedy.   Upon mourning at the funeral of family friend, seven year old Daniel Barden who perished at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, he and his family promised to help their friends get through the loss of a child and honor Daniel’s zest for life.

“I really hurt afterMelissa and Dan Williams Cover picture the Sandy Hook tragedy.  I had to do something to try and better the lives of people with the notion to be kind, joyful and positive as Daniel would have wanted”, said Dan.  Folks around here say Dan runs on a different set of gears.  Because he said he would and his work ethic has inspired legions of countless volunteers and community members, the two annual Daniel Barden Highland Mudfests have raised over 100,000 dollars for the Sandy Hook Promise, a Newtown, CT community organization charity and the Central New York Center for Family Life and Recovery.  Thank you Dan!



I came to meet U.S. Army Vietnam Veteran, Bob VanDenbergh while he and I were getting the Deansboro Cemetery ready for Memorial Day.  I was honored that Bob and his son, Tom were the caretakers of the fallen heroes and loved ones.  In that brief encounter, Bob told me the plight of homeless Vietnam Veterans in the South and said he wanted to help his fellow era veterans and the next generation of homeless vets who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Because he said he would, he promised to do something to better the lives of veterans.  At 67 years old and still quite stealthy, he embarked on a journey to run from Memorial Day 2013 to Memorial Day 2014, asking people to pledge a penny a mile and hoping to run 1776 miles for the Wounded Warrior Project.

He ran as many as 15 miles in a day and 55 miles in a week. He ran through all kinds of weather. He went through four pairs of running shoes for the campaign.  He downright inspired people.  “Once word got out, I started getting straight donations from legions, businesses, fire departments and the whole community”, he said.    People have just stopped me on the run and asked me if I’m Bob VanDenbergh and handed me money. If I’m walking around town, people come up and hand me money.”

As a Bob contributor and Cemetery Trustee, I was there at the Memorial Day service to share in the glory for the “The Veteran on the Run” and his wife, Mary Beth as they accepted plaques and praise from Oneida County and soldiers from Fort Drum.  After saying a few poignant words, Bob completed the last leg of his promis039ed journey on the road in which he started, raising over 10,000 dollars for veterans because he said he would.  Thank you Bob!

These local people like many in my community and across the country are everyday heroes because they strive to fulfill a promise to help no matter the circumstances.  On Veteran’s Day, please remember all the heroes in your life that subscribe to the idea——Because I said I would.

Published by Lee Publications, The Waterville Times, Lancaster Farming