Bill Force is a Texas Senior Pro Rodeo Association team roper—the No. 2 header at time of print—who dreamed of playing professional tennis in his younger years. Instead, he joined the Marines.
“My military career was a combination of active duty and reserves,” said the retired Lieutenant Colonel and career helicopter pilot, who was also a Maryland State Trooper before he and his family moved to Texas. “Don’t tell anybody, but I’d never been on a horse in my life until I was 40. It’s only a number. I ran a full Ironman at 54—my first triathlon. I’m 68 now. I feel like I’m 30.”
It seems the tennis industry missed out. The team roping industry, along with the veteran and first responder communities, on the other hand, have struck gold.
“My military and law enforcement career was very successful,” Force explained. “I had tough days, but I didn’t have any bad days. So, I have a desire to give back.”
In 2020, Force attended Charly Crawford’s first formal iteration of the American Military Celebration. When Crawford said he wanted to grow the event, Force, who had been piloting helicopters for the Ross Perot family and businesses, raised his hand.
“I said, ‘I think you’re going to need a big dog in this hunt if you’re going to grow. There’s a possibility I could get an introduction to Ross Perot, Jr., for you.’”
Today, the event is now proudly sponsored by Hillwood Land & Cattle.
“Hillwood Land & Cattle is Ross Perot, Jr.,” Force explained.
The AMC also procured support from four-star Air Force Gen. Moseley, who serves on the event’s board of directors with Force, along with Western industry moguls Ken Bray (Equibrand) and Keith Mundee (American Hat Company). By the conclusion of the 2021 AMC at NRS, the event had more than doubled its 2020 donation to Building Homes for Heroes with a $115,000 contribution.
Marine veteran Jeremy Svejcar operates Charlie Five, a nonprofit that matches horses to veterans and first responders who’ve committed themselves to healing through horsemanship.
“I was watching TV last year and Chris Cox had Jeremy on,” Force said. “I liked his story, so I called him, and he came to the AMC event last year.”
Force also volunteers at a therapeutic riding center that released a horse to him that wasn’t a good fit for their program. He got along with the horse, but came to realize he really needed a job outside the arena, so he called Svejcar, who, unable to match the horse through his program, suggested Force call retired Marine Col. John Mayer of the Jinx McCain Horsemanship Program, operated by the Semper Fi & America’s Fund. The mission of the JMHP, meanwhile, is to re-engage and inspire its members through cowboying and ranch work.
“Supporting veterans was one of my criteria,” Force said. “I wasn’t going to give this horse to just somebody who wanted a horse, veteran or otherwise. There needed to be a real purpose. With what they’re doing with gatherings and brandings and so forth, I thought that was a good fit.”
In short, since becoming involved in 2020’s AMC, Force has had sizeable impact on four different veterans groups. It’s an impressive hustle for a man who, trained his own horse as he himself was learning to ride.
“I did everything the wrong way. I bought a horse that had never been ridden and I watched John Lyons videos.”
Help came from fellow Texas roper Mike Clark, who took Force under his wing in the practice pen. When they finally ventured out to a jackpot—on Force’s self-trained rope horse—they won.
Since then, Force has won plenty, but it’s not the buckles he’s after.
“The achievement is being able to take on a challenge at 40-plus and succeed with it and enjoy it,” Force said. “And then, pass it on to others.
“I’ve got a lot of medals and stuff like that. They don’t mean anything. It’s the experience of what you bring to the game and what you take away and give to others. That’s all.”