Local disabled vet and sister-in-law complete Rebel rally, paving way for 2022 goals – St George News


Selena Converse and Erin Mason took on the Nine Day 2000K Rebel Sailing Rally with Sammy, the two-and-a-half-year-old Converse German Shepherd, Hoover Dam, AZ October 7, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Mitsubishi, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Two military veterans and sisters-in-law completed the Rebel rally, an all-terrain sailing competition for women in Arizona. This set the stage for them to tackle some big goals for the new year.

Selena Converse and Erin Mason at the Rebelle Rally with Sammy, the two-and-a-half-year-old German Shepherd from Converse, Hoover Dam, AZ October 7, 2021 | Photo provided by Mitsubishi, St. George News

Hurricane’s Selena Converse and Erin Mason recently tackled the nine-day, 2,000-mile sailing rally, placing in the top 10. Sammy, a two-and-a-half-year-old German Shepherd, joined them as the first assistance dog to participate in the rally.

Converse, Mason and Sammy represented Save trip (RTJ), a charity for military veterans. The charity is dedicated to helping military personnel make a successful transition to civilian life and advocate for PTSD awareness.

The rally only allows a map compass and no GPS can be involved. It is a prestigious competition in the off-road community. The registration fee is approximately $ 12,000.

Mitsubishi sponsored the team and they drove a 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander.

“I didn’t think I was going to be able to (run) because of the cost. And I’m incredibly grateful for all the amazing women I met there, ”Converse said. “This is really a bucket list opportunity. And it helps me accomplish a lot of things for 2022. “

The rally opportunity has been a springboard for many things that they have been trying to accomplish for quite some time. Converse and her husband have been interested in off-road racing for some time. Although the rally is not classified as an off-road race, it is a competition.

“Being able to do that allowed us to do other things because my name was displayed a bit,” Converse said.

Following the evacuation of the forces from Afghanistan, the mental health and well-being of veterans and their families is important to the team.

“What I didn’t expect was being physically exhausted, like I was on a military deployment and only slept four hours at night. It was really wild, ”Converse said. “So for me it relates directly to what the mental thing was to me. I went there with my service dog. I am a disabled and PTSD veteran.

Converse suffers from severe PTSD which is usually treated at home. But PTSD was difficult for her to deal with during the event. She thought it would be more of a vacation, but it wasn’t.

Rebel Sailing Rally Wrapped Up by Military Veterans Selena Converse and Erin Mason with Converse German Shepherd Sammy, Hoover Dam, AZ on October 7, 2021 | Photo provided by Mitsubishi, St. George News

“It was work. So it was very physical, very exhausting, and it ended up being a lot like a military deployment. So it was very difficult for me, ”said Converse. “We all wear the same uniform. We eat in a sort of refectory, refectory, military facility. We have these big tents. We stay in the desert. Very similar to what I experienced in Afghanistan.

Sammy, her German Shepherd assistance dog, helped her cope throughout the event. Sammy is all black, a rarity for the breed. Sammy was originally supposed to be Converse’s husband’s dog after recently losing his 13-year-old dog. The couple made Sammy think she would replace him.

“When Sammy arrived with us, it was very clear that she was not the replacement. The difference between German Shepherds and the dogs we used to have was that bully breeds like Pit Bulls, Dogos, and Argentines tend to be lovable and cuddly. And a German Shepherd is a working breed.

Even as a puppy, Sammy wasn’t interested if they tried to get her to sit on the couch and snuggle up. All she wanted was a job, to eat and sleep. When she was ten weeks old, they started training her.

Around the same time, Converse was diagnosed with PTSD, so they decided to train their puppy as a service dog.

“She really knows when it hurts. She has been trained to recognize when my blood pressure is rising and I have bad stomach cramps just because I have bowel problems, ”she said. “She comes over and licks my face or my hands. And if that doesn’t work, then she’ll immediately get someone else and bug them to let them know I’m in pain.

Converse nearly passed out recently at a local restaurant while she was in the bathroom. Her dog went to the table to pick up her husband. Sammy is trained to watch her owner’s rear.

“She is trained in protection and custody. So if we’re at the grocery store, you won’t find her willy-nilly going around the store. You’ll see her standing behind me, watching the exit, or watching the people lining up behind me, essentially forming a barrier. She doesn’t like to be petted when she is working in her jacket.

Originally, Converse and Mason were going to disconnect as pilot and navigator in the rally. So they trained on a par. They had to learn the navigation part, which was the bulk of the training. But it was clear from the first night that Converse probably wasn’t going to be doing much boating due to the symptoms of PTSD and flashbacks.

Converse said her sister-in-law was the perfect person to support her through this.

“I didn’t have to explain anything. Erin could literally look at my face and look at my eyes and understand what I was going through, “Converse said. “It was a cool, bonding and growing time for us, and it definitely made our fellowship grow. And I’m so thankful that she and my service dog are here.

Without them, Converse said it wouldn’t have done the rally.

“It was hard, mentally exhausting. It was the worst because the physical part is that there are only a few more days left. But the mental part, it hit me hard, and it hit me fast, ”she said.

Lots of women go through other things in the rally that weren’t in the military. They experience new stresses because they are alone, sometimes for the first time. Race organizers call it “back to school”.

“What happens is that you are without communication for ten days and a lot of women are dependent on a husband, spouse or family member,” Converse said. “They come out and realize, ‘Oh, hey, I can do this, I’m smug and I’m independent. They grow within themselves while they are there. Then they go home and should take over these secondary roles. And they’re like, no, hey; I am an independent woman, now I am ready to move on and be my own person.

For Converse and Mason, it was a very different experience than for women who had not served in the military.

“I would dare say that most of the veterans felt the same way. Like, “I don’t feel accomplished or conquered”, or “it was easy”. It was tough on me mentally, from a PTSD perspective, ”Converse said. “The common thing you will hear is that everyone rebels differently. “

Converse praised Mason for going through the experience while having a 1 1/2 year old baby and a four week old baby. Mason’s husband and family took care of the children. She was pumping breast milk during the rally to take it home with her children.

“We were teased that our refrigerator had nothing to do with food, and that was it for babies and dogs. Erin is really amazing, ”said Converse.

Her husband is Converse’s brother, who was also in the military. They live in east Texas with his parents on a 23-acre farm.

“Tackling huge goals and being intimidated by them has a lot to do with how prepared you are,” Converse said. “If you’re not ready to jump into something, you’re going to be a lot more intimidated. So being prepared during the training and receiving an education, whatever you need before you try to get started, is going to help. “

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