Military Salute

The Patriot Honors Ropers Who Served
Under new ownership and direction, The Patriot made good on its promise to live up to its namesake by creating some special opportunities for its ropers who’ve served in the United States military.
Carl Powell Heads for Tori Raine in the Patriot’s #7 Veteran Special.
Carl Powell Heads for Tori Raine in the Patriot’s #7 Veteran Special. Powell Proudly joined the U.S. Navy and served in the Vietnam war. When his boat was nearing the conflict, he recalls waking up to a thunderstorm only to learn from his captain that he was listening to bombs detonating. | Ric Andersen / CBarC Photography

It’s no secret at this point that this year’s The Patriot Event in Fort Worth was a screaming success—and a feat of impressive magnitude by the new team behind the event, which was only acquired by the Equine Network in October 2023. Not only did the team pull off one of the biggest ropings of the year in less than six months, but they also managed, in that insanely short timeframe, to identify and prioritize its core value: To honor the real Patriots among us.

“We had a #7 roping and the next day, we took the veteran ropers from that #7 across to the short round, the final round of the Hooey Jr. Patriot roping,” explained John English, General Manager of the Patriot Events. “Then we brought Rich Skelton in and he heeled for the two veterans who were able to rope that day.”

Before the #7 began, the organizers of the Patriot orchestrated a tribute to four men who joined Dru Stewart at the Sports Desk for a live interview discussing what it means to serve and how valuable their service is to them: Richard Celsi served in the Army from 1968 to 1969, Stan Long served the Army from 1969 to 1971, Carl Powell served the Navy from 1973 to 1975 and Blake Henderson served in the Army from 2010 to 2012. 

Of the four men, Celsi and Powell saw action in the Vietnam War. Celsi, Powell and Henderson signed up for service, while Long’s name was listed on the draft. Long and Henderson both served stateside, with Long in the Corps of Engineers training electricians in preparation for deployment and with Henderson serving as a medic. Despite the many differences between their service, each expressed gratitude for it, and a wish that more people knew the benefits of serving, like the discipline they gained and the camaraderie they earned.

“I wanted to go, and I’m glad I did,” asserted Powell, who spent his time overseas in a seven-man landing boat patrolling the coast of Cambodia. “I wouldn’t change it for nothing. It’s been good for me. It made me a better person and, I might not say this, but there’s a lot of people out there today that could benefit from it.”

The tribute continued the next day with Rich Skelton cleaning up the heels in a sort of match roping between Henderson and Celsi. Henderson fired off a good one but had to do some fishing to get his catch and Celsi made a solid businessman’s run. Skelton did his service by heeling each steer down for the men, and then joined them for another visit at the Sports Desk.

“It’s pretty cool to get to come out here today,” the eight-time World Champ said. “But I think I was more nervous than they was.”

WATCH: Rich Skelton Ropes with Patriot Vets on Roping.com

In appreciation of their service, each veteran was awarded a belt buckle by Gist Silversmiths, owned and operated by USMC veteran Gary Gist.

“There’s a lot of guys that should be sitting here instead of me,” Henderson said. “But this was fun.”

Celsi offered a similar nod to his brothers-in-arms.

“I’m proud of my service. I was awarded a medal or two, but I think a lot of other people deserved them that day, as well. They don’t all get [medals], but I remember them.” 

—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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