The Final Flight of “THE RAVEN”….A Hero’s Journey

John M BUNMAN

BUNMAN-Adventures, Rescue & Recovery
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This is extremely hard a story for me to tell. Survivor’s guilt is a burden I will carry forever.
This is my lifelong friend Thom’s story and a Navy Seals. Both Heroes that a debt of gratitude is owed.
Thom has always been an avid outdoorsman and adventure seeker like me, that’s probably why we became best friends in the Austin Texas Fire Department Academy.
The Ravens story…Thom bought his first Sportsmobile Adventure Van when he returned from two tours in Iraq/Afghanistan. That Van was totaled in a roll over accident after some Ftard hit him on the Freeway. This began the search for THE RAVEN. This particularly type of Van is extremely hard to find. They are usually built to order and used ones don’t last long. Thom was able to locate in North Carolina, just outside Ft Bragg. Thom happened to be on that side of the country and made an appointment with the owner to see it two days later. It only had 10k miles on it and was tricked out just as if he ordered it himself. The owner turned out to be an older gentleman. Thom and the man got to talking. His son was a Navy Seal that had done multiple tours in Iraq/Afghanistan. He returned home and suffered from PTSD. He helped his son buy the van in hopes of helping him by traveling together and connecting with nature. It sadly didn’t work. Approximately 25 VETERANS A DAY, COMMIT SUCICIDE :( The man’s son, a hero to our Nation, became a statistic. The man tried in vain to continue adventures in the van, to honor his son. The pain was to much and he had decided to sell it. The man had 3 other people coming that day, that also wanted the van and we’re cash buyers. Thom told him it would take him a week to get the money together and told the man that he too was a Veteran of the Iraq/Afghanistan war and that if he would hold it for a week, Thom would carry on his son’s legacy, sharing his story with anyone who would listen. The man agreed and Thom has cont to fulfill his promise.
THE RAVEN is based on a Ford One Ton platform. He is rolling with 37’s and every option you would need to survive Off-Gride. She is beautiful from the Warn 12k winch to the Adventure Trailer towed by an articulating hitch.

THE RAVEN‘S LAST FLIGHT….
As I said Thom and I became best friends in the AFD Academy. We spent many miles together in the Texas Hill Country, riding our motorcycles with my brother who was a Police Officer with the Austin Police Department. Thom is nine years older than me. When we met, he had done 2 Tours in Vietnam and had gotten out of the Army upon returning. I had just completed 4 yrs active duty and had stayed in the Army Reserves. I have always loved Helicopters, Jumping out of them, Flying NAP of the earth through the jungles of Panama boots dangling in the wind, no strap holding you in, rappelling from them, or dangling from ropes taking a STABO Ride.Man those Pilots could fly.
Thom had enough of the Army in Vietnam, but I convinced him to join the Texas National Guard Air Calvary Unit. The short version…I ended up staying in the Army Reserves, leaving AFD and heading to Vegas, joining LVMPD. Thom decided to join the Cav unit, despite me leaving.

Last week Thom gave me a call and said he was stopping by to spend a night on his way North to Attend BURNING MAN out in the Black Rock desert, outside of Reno.

Thom told me that night, this would probably be his last Burning Man. He was making a Farewell tour while he was still strong enough to make it. He wanted to visit the people that had made a great impact on his life and tell them how much he loved us and to thank us. I was humbled and Honored to be one of those few people.
Thom is dying from cancer. He probably has less than a year to live.
Thom is dying from cancer. A cancer he got from the BURN PITS in Iraq and the ArmyVA denied for almost 2 decades.
Before the start of the war, Thom and his Unit transitioned to the C-23 Sherpa. Mainly used to transport Tier-1 Operators and Mission Essential items to FOB’s in the Operating Theater.
Thom and his crew’s tents, as well as many others were located directly down wind from the Burn Pits. Additionally, the Sherpa’s almost always flew low level, no more than 100’ off the deck, always flying through the smoke of the Burn Pits that burned 24/7. Every knew that the Burn pits were EXTREMELY TOXIC, yet nothing was done to rectify the dangerous conditions that the Soldiers were living in and being exposed to daily. It was a bad enough that a Doctor who was working at the adjacent Field Hospital and worked for the EPA back home. gave them all letters for their 201-File, detailing their exposure. Everything and I mean Everything was burned in these pits, body parts, hazmat waste from the hospital etc. All of which created a deadly toxic smoke.

Thom has always been the epitome of Physical fitness. Always maxing both his AFD and Army PT tests. Now a hundred yards taxes his strength. He is a shadow of his former self :(
Thom is a fighter and we talked at length that night about the importance of maintaining our Can-Do attitude, even in the Face of Death…Never Quit!

I told him of the guilt I felt for getting him into the Guard and then leaving him. I should have been there with him..Instead, he thanked me. He said he loved his time flying with the Guard and will always be thankful to me for dragging him down there. Maybe someday I will be able to see it that way, now I feel only guilt…

Why am I leaving this here? FRF is my only social media platform and I needed to leave a Tribute to him with people that I knew would appreciate his life of service.
Thom is a highly Decorated Soldier and Firefighter, to list his Awards and Decorations would take 2 more pages.
My Gratitude to Thom for his friendship and his dedication to our Country and the Community of Austin Texas is immeasurable.
He is a True Warrior and I will help him fight until the end.. E5B22F51-0E89-4989-B431-5BDC1A0129CF.jpeg 97D16E65-4CB4-4415-A3A4-269823011CB4.jpeg 2460BFF4-AD11-4BC7-AA1F-A8EDE161C1FD.jpeg A812B103-A08D-4F32-9CF2-83C1E87BDBF0.jpeg 11932D31-1EAC-4C14-8CD7-5EB57E46C0ED.jpeg
 
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