Salute to Veterans

Armor Officer Shane Wohlfert Applies Logistics Training to Organize First-Ever America’s Warrior Roping with Cesar de la Cruz and Matt Sherwood 
Shane Wohlfert gave 24 years of service to the United States Army, and now he’s finding ways to give support to his fellow veterans and first responders with help from some pretty hefty names in the roping community.
Mike Jackson and Charly Crawford with America’s Warrior Roping’s Cesar de la Cruz and Shane Wohlfert.
Liberty & Loyalty Foundation’s Mike Jackson and Charly Crawford with America’s Warrior Roping’s Cesar de la Cruz and Shane Wohlfert. | Photos by Brooks Benjamin
Shane Wohlfert smiling, riding a horse and holding a rope
Shane Wohlfert | Photos by Brooks Benjamin

It’s a very sure bet that Shane Wohlfert, 53, never imagined he’d be a cowboy when he was growing up in Lansing, Michigan. 

“I really didn’t know about Black and white issues because there were not very many white kids in the school I went to,” Wohlfert said. “It was predominantly Black—African American—and I knew no difference.”

Now hailing from Vado, New Mexico, Wohlfert was the one to whip on the wrestling mat throughout his grade school years. When his parents moved him to a K-12 school in Perry, Michigan’s “farm country,” he got a taste for hunting and the outdoors, but he was still decades away from riding a horse for the first time.

“I learned a little bit of farming, and I knew I didn’t want to go to college right away,” Wohlfert said. “I wanted to be a cop, so I joined the military as a military police officer.”

Heeding the Call

In his first seven years of service, Wohlfert discovered he did not actually want to be a cop, but that he was a good soldier. He got out of the Army, rejoined the Army, got his college degree and pursued a career that landed him the position of Master Sergeant—the second-highest position for an enlisted soldier. 

“I went to Panama when I first enlisted, just after they secured Noriega,” Wohlfert recalled of the Panamanian leader’s surrender on Jan. 3, 1990. “Then Desert Shield and Desert Storm kicked off. Came back from that. Then, everyone knows 9/11.”

By the time Wohlfert had put in 19 years—a soldier can retire after 20 years—he decided he wanted to be an officer.  

“I went to Armor Officer School, to Calvary Scout and Recon right there at Fort Knox,” he said. “They moved me over to Fort Bliss but they’d already told me to keep my stuff packed. ‘We’re going over to the sandbox,’ which meant we were going to Iraq.

“Basically, we were in charge of closing down all of what they call Forward Operating Bases,” Wohlfert explained. “Our infantry guys secured the base, let the Iraqis in, let all of our guys come out. We were receiving fire from, they won’t say it was from Iran, but it was Iranian missiles. So we were trying to give it back to Iraq. It took about seven, eight months. We were literally one of the last units to travel through Iraq and go into Saudi Arabia.”

From Front Line to First Ride

When Wohlfert returned, he needed surgery and was medically retired from service in 2014 after 24 years. In that same time, he met his now wife, Jeanette, the daughter of a true working cowboy and a nurse, who thought Wohlfert might enjoy riding horses at her parent’s home.

“She goes, ‘My dad will put you on a super broke horse,’ and I was like, ‘Why would I ride a broken horse,” Wohlfert said, demonstrating just how far outside the circle he was. “My father-in-law is a Vietnam veteran. He got his arm blown off [there], so he’s got a hook for an arm, and he just doesn’t have any quit. I didn’t ever see him eat hardly anything at all except for dinner. He lived on cigarettes and Pepsi and coffee in the morning. 

“He took me underneath his wing, and he was like, ‘Hey, I work at the Hurt’s ranch, why don’t you come along and do spring works for us?’”

With no idea what “spring works” entailed, Wohlfert arrived at the 400-section ranch (not that he knew what a section was either) and was educated in all things cow camp and cowboy, with the assistance of a helicopter to navigate gathering the rugged terrain of New Mexico’s boot heel. 

“You could probably say I’ve been drinking from the fire hose since Day 1 [when] I was introduced to horses,” Wohlfert offered.

Finding Peace

It was a minute before Wohlfert’s father-in-law would allow him to throw a rope at live cattle, but it was a heck of an introduction to what has since become his daily life.

“We’re down to eight head,” said Wohlfert, explaining that Jeanette jumped at the opportunity to get back into horses herself. “I’ve got 14 cattle. I got chickens. I got goats. I’ve got a lot of dogs. And we’re on five acres.

“It’s my peace,” Wohlfert said, who is still a federal employee based out of Las Cruces at White Sands. “I’ve got some mental issues. I won’t call it PTSD, but I do have some anxiety and some other issues. And I told my wife, ‘I just love being with the horses.’ Being with a horse, it just calms me down. I feel a connection. I can sit there and watch my cows—I’ve started a Corriente business—I can sit there and watch my horses and my cows just eat all day long. It just soothes me.”

America’s Warrior Roping

American Warrior Roping Clinic members posing with buckles.
At right, Wohlfert and wife Jeanette with the American Warrior Roping Clinic Members. | Photos by Brooks Benjamin

In his entry into the lifestyle, Wohlfert also found community in the military ropings, first at Charly Crawford’s house in the first iterations of what is now the American Hero Celebration and more recently in PAFRA, too. 

“I met a guy prior to all that named Victor Iglesias—he’s a number 7 heeler. He was like, ‘Hey, I want to get you some lessons and go do The Patriot because The Patriot is doing a military veterans thing.’ That was maybe three years ago.”

Jeanette clued Wohlfert into a clinic with nine-time NFR heeler Cesar de la Cruz and—after completely tearing down Wohlfert’s swing and making him build it again from the ground up—de la Cruz shared an interest in putting on a clinic and roping like what the Liberty & Loyalty Foundation has created in the American Hero Celebration. 

The team behind Liberty & Loyalty stepped in to provide crucial guidance and templates for sponsorship paperwork and logistics, and Wohlfert and de la Cruz’s PR agent, Krystal Meade, constructed the first-ever America’s Warrior Roping in about one year’s time, hosting the event Jan. 6 and 7 at de la Cruz’s place in Casa Grande, Arizona, with two-time World Champion header Matt Sherwood.

“It turned out really good for a one-day clinic,” Wohlfert said. “A lot of the guys were really appreciative. They keep calling me and telling me how much they actually learned… So, kudos to Cesar and Matt.”

Veterans, First Responders, Cowboys

The clinic was open to military, first responders and their families and, the next day, the roping was open to the public with proceeds going back to the Liberty & Loyalty Foundation. Brutal weather impacted turnout, but not from Crawford, who flew in with Liberty & Loyalty team member Mike Jackson, or from other NFR notables like Erich Rogers and Trey Yates.

Wohlfert himself earned a first-place finish in the Military/First Responder Pro/Am roping behind Rogers.

“Fast Back donated rope bags,” Wohlfert said. “Best Ever [and] Cinch donated gift certificates. And, I got Corriente Buckles from Bobby and Bode Baize.”

Arizona’s Crown Hats joined the efforts, and PAFRA rodeo announcer JW Kinder showed up to share his talents, as did esteemed rodeo photographer Brooks Benjamin. And though it’s hard to say exactly what growth path the event will follow after this first year, Wohlfert knows what he’s aiming to accomplish.

“I can Google anything and ask for veterans assistance and get 100,000 hits on all these services that provide help for veterans,” he explained. “But when you Google services for first responders, there’s not very many, and there’s hardly any at the national level. I’ve heard stories and talked to firefighters. I’ve talked to police officers, and it just amazes me: If there’s a death or there’s an investigation, their pay stops, meaning their family gets no money.

“The goal is to really put first responders on the same platform that our military veterans are on,” Wohlfert continued. “If we’re truly doing the fundraiser for both, then we’ve got to support both as equally as we can.”

—TRJ—

Thank you to Equinety for helping us share stories of military members, veterans and first responders in the team roping community.

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