Hurricane Rita is a Milton Hershey School student, turned 8 1/2 year wounded OIF/OEF veteran who grew tired of the system after her second combat tour, this time, returning from Afghanistan. Instead of guarding national secrets, she chose to become a wandering, ultra running, gluten-free baking, couch surfing, river guiding, salsa, bachata, Zumba, Masala Bhangra Workout, and body movements instructor. She speaks Mandarin Chinese, Korean, Spanish, and English (on occasion), and generally has an abnormal hair color – pink, blue, purple, and red seem to be her favorites.
At one time she had a Top Secret/Secret Compartmentalized Information (TS/SCI) clearance and worked as a cryptologic linguist and intelligence analyst.
She’s been to 14 countries, teaching salsa in 7 of them as well as running races in 7 of them.
Upon her return from Afghanistan in November 2009 after having been shot through her bag three times (missing both her and the two mortars tied to the outside of the bag) and being in a vehicle that directly hit a 200 lb Roadside bomb, she raced to ETS (at least begin her terminal leave) from the Army by the 8th of January 2010, and immediately went to the Dominican Republic to mountain bike the island for a month, then to Copper Canyon, Urique, Mexico to run the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon. She walked away with 200 lbs of corn (donated back to the Rarámuri) and $300 for a 7th place finish among females with a time of 11 hours and 2 minutes.
She then sold and gave away most of her worldly possessions, in lieu of a six figure occupation with DOD, pulled out the back seats from her Rav4, moved in with her two pups, and drove to Haines, Alaska to become a river guide on the largest bald eagle preserve in the world for $10.00 an hour plus tips. She spent three spring/summer/and fall seasons in Heavenly Haines living in a cabin that was built forty-five years ago to float at high tide, and completely off grid (no electricity and no plumbing) on the Lutak Inlet.
It was incredibly healing to be away from “it” all. Three years she spent hours writing, running, and simply meditating on combat, war, hatred, the nastiness of the system, and self-healing. She spent hours and hours focusing on introspection, listening to eagles, great blue herons, bears, seagulls, and sea lions fight over salmon.
She found her soulmate there. He was her river guide instructor, the (incredibly sexy and capable) John Binger. Love, light, and happiness was the result. They’ve lived together in the Rav4, the float house in Haines, AK, on Baby Beach in Maui, Hana Herbs Farm in Hana, Maui, in the CLC2 at the VA Hospital in Phoenix, AZ, in Van, Annville, PA, and currently resides in Magical Moab, UT.
In August, 2012 she received news that she had been selected for an adventure race on TV. She found out the same day she received a heart wrenching phone call that her father had committed suicide. Five weeks later, in October she was flown to Fiji to participate in the adventure reality show, 72 Hours Fijian Jungle. She was dropped out of a helicopter in the jungle with 8 other strangers on a mission to find a briefcase full of $100,000!
Her episode of 72 Hours (episode 7) aired July 25th, 2013 on TNT.
Many of you will ask and have asked, did Hurricane Rita’s red team win?
Her team didn’t win, but not for her nor her female partner’s lack of fitness…other reasons. Reasons that make the episode an absolute must see. Hurricane Rita participated on the show (first and foremost to participate in the adventure….secondly) in order to get the $33k and use it to buy her brother, Chip, an epic off road wheel chair and a vehicle with which to travel across the country…hitting all of his previously chosen sites.
Three days after she returned to the states from Fiji, she found herself in the Emergency Room. Three weeks later, she was admitted to the hospital Phoenix VA Medical Center, having brought back with her many, many brain eating parasites from a slug she ate while filming the show (You must watch). She was paralyzed from the waist down. Her colon and bladder were shut down.
She’d gone from running 20 miles easily off the couch for fun to barely being able to flex her feet. She’d lost ALL reflexes, and even the breeze was excruciatingly painful on her skin.
Below deathly low.
But she was.
And still is.
It took her over a month of being the youngest person living in the CLC2 nursing home of the hospital, doing physical therapy 3 times a day plus everything her lover decided she needed to practice after PT to walk again.
On December 19th 2012, her “Dirty Thirty” birthday,she was released on a walker with the ability to stand for approximately 15 minutes at a time.
January 11, 2013 she bought her first gym membership to Paramount Sports Complex in Annville, PA.
January 12, 2013 she went to her first Zumba class – She made it through two songs.
May 4, 2013, 4 1/2 months out she RAN her first 5K.
5 1/2 months of grueling work later, she taught 10 separate fitness classes in 14 days.
Nov 9, 2013, 10 1/2 months out she hiked 9 miles in Arches National Park.
Nov 23, 2013, nearly a year after being released from the hospital, she ran her first 5K under 26 minutes.
Now, she’s teaching Zumba and Masala Bhangra in Moab, UT and building her stamina.
Her lover has supported her throughout the entire battle, introducing her to YOGA and juicing organic, non-GMO fruits and vegetables for her daily. She focuses on mindfulness, meditation,replacing frustration with humor, a positive attitude about recovery, and simple determination.
Her mission is to inspire you to inspire others. Inspire you to love yourself, accept yourself, forgive yourself, and to recognize that tomorrow truly is not guaranteed.
Read on, Storm Watchers.