0100 hours, Somewhere in the middle of nowhere VA, 2004 : “Look guys, it’s the Mission COMMAAAAAANDer!” –The first words Patrick “Zam” Zamarripa ever said to me followed by laughter of 20+ of new teammates from Mobile Security Det 21, a newly formed security team born post 9/11. We were on a training mission my first week and Dan Topper (the new boss) wanted to see if I could lead a group through an exercise. Well I failed and kind of miserably. I also realized it wasn’t a test to see if I could lead, it was more of a test of how much shit I could take being the new guy.
Our team got along immediately and while Zam ended up being my closest friend, my first impression was to punch him in the mouth. I feel that is the general consensus of most friends who serve together. We spent a lot of time with one another. Long AM runs in tiny ass shorts, puking during workouts after dollar corona night (thanks Gators Va Beach) whatever it was we laughed and suffered together. Chasing the ladies, ball busting the team, and loving the shit out of our country were some of the day to day. People tend to say this about their loved ones after they pass, “He always had a way to make people laugh.”
He really did. His voice carried and spat an infectious laugh. The type that would turn heads to see who is laughing like a 3rd grader but in an adult voice. On deployment we’d talk about the future. How many Cubs and Bears games I’d plan on going to and he’d tell me about his Rangers “fuggin up” my lovable losers and how the Cowboys were destined to stop sucking (sorry pal – still not the case). Mind you this was pre social media craziness. We didn’t have our phones ready to snap pictures and send home. Peasant city digital and disposable cameras with 120 plus degree heat to add to the spiciness of the unknown. Anytime a camera would pop out, he’d try and be high speed as hell. Grab his rifle, throw some ammo over his shoulder, throw his tiny tattooed arm over the Iraqi oil worker next to him. “Yo, let’s go man. (he always drug out his words in a way that emulated Michael Jordan ). You better save that shit.”
While I was eager to get out and move on with my civilian life, Zam had different plans. The dangerous uncertainty of homegrown success appealed to me while Zam strived to serve. After getting into the business world I asked if he wanted to join me — as expected he replied “Maaaaaan, I love you homie but no chance i’m leaving Texas son!”. He wound up joining the reserves and becoming a Dallas police officer. Now I love my country, so much so that it’s inked into my blood, but this dude LOVED his country. We both had this desire to make it better through our path we chose in life.
We would visit each other frequently. His girlfriend Kristy and him came up to Chicago for a Bears vs Cowboys game. 3 beers deep and he pulled out this “Rey Mysterio” Cowboys mask and taunted every Bears fan in site. Also as expected, the Cowboys embarrassed the Bears and he made me stay until we were some of the last in the stadium to wave goodbye to everyone. When my son was born he mailed me Cowboys onesies!!
His true passion was his family. He loved them more than anything and always wanted everyone to be happy. From his mom and dad to his brother and sister. They were spoken about like celebrities…and no one was to go near his sister Laura (also in the Navy). Kristy was his High School love. He’d never spoken of anyone like that before — they just clicked. When his daughter was born, being a dad to him and his stepson Dylan was all that mattered. He wanted to show them a beautiful America filled with family and love. Desperate to mold them into Rangers & Cowboys fans, this was his calling. It fueled his passion for his community and his role as a police officer. He would feed the homeless and open his ears to those who needed a friend. On the night of his death, he made a detour to bring someone on the street a meal. It was just who he was. Not for “the gram” or “fame”. He did it because it was the right thing to do. To help your fellow community members.
This next part….is difficult to type.
July 7, 2016: There was a Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Dallas. It was all over the TV. I texted Zam knowing he’d be in the thick of it without a response back. There had been recent police shootings in LA and MN and the DPD officers marched with the protesters in solidarity. I saw the alerts all over the news of an active shooter and officer’s down but never in a million years would I think something of this magnitude was imminent. I shot him another text saying “You better be ok man”. It showed “delivered” and I really didn’t have a thought as to something wrong. Not thinking much more than that, I messaged Kristy to update me on when he gets home. She said she hadn’t heard back from him and was concerned. I reassured her he was tough as nails and Dallas is a big city with a lot of people. No way he was one of them. No way.
Missed calls, texts, and panic. “He didn’t make it, Alex.” The message from Kristy read early in the morning. Everything around me went dark. I could only hear my own respirations and feel my heart beat. I ran to my backyard and collapsed. Every emotion overcame me. Tears… loud, painful, and uncontrollable cries. Anger. My wife and daughter ran outside to comfort me which, I think, helped turn my anger into problem solving. I couldn’t go and find his killer – he was already dead and it wouldn’t do anything anyway. If I felt this way, my old teammates felt this way and I certainly knew his family would need it.
With his family’s permission, I started a go fund me page. I knew in order for it to grow and given my close relationship with Z, I had to get in front of a camera. There were people making fake pages collecting cash from the kindness of others. I was even being called a thief and a liar by people saying I was cashing in on his death. This didn’t bother me as I knew the truth. I knew every penny collected would go to the mother of his child and for her to distribute as she felt best.
As I sat in the Fox News studio prepping to talk to the hosts, I couldn’t help the immense emotions. Why the fuck am I talking about my PAST experience with Zam when he is not with me? How is this possible!? The Fox News prep team helped me with my earpiece and were asking me all these questions. I didn’t hear a word they were saying. Nothing really mattered. I looked at it as a mission and I needed to knock through these 5 minutes for his family. Watch the interview below:
After leaving (about 5 minutes long on National TV) I SPRINTED to my car. I actually don’t know why I sprinted. I think it was the sense of getting back to something which felt comfortable and known? I was in such unchartered territory with all of this. About 15 minutes had gone by so I pulled up the GoFundMe page. We had raised $150k in a matter of 15 minutes. I was blown away. It was like Z and I had this small moment of “Chill” together and FINALLY something had worked out in our favor. I just sat there and cried.
I could write a book about the local community members who impacted that week. Southwest airlines worked with me to book flights for all of my teammates (and their families) from the Military. Offered to pay for hotels and even handle dinner and drinks so we could better cope together. Didn’t ask to join me on TV, didn’t ask for attention…. they simply cared for their fellow human they shared the earth with. The everyday person who donated $2 of their hard earned money but knew someone needed it a bit more than them. That happened thousands of times by communities all over the country (and world).
Grief and purpose have brought me to where I am at today. At Battle Bars, our mission is to fuel American greatness through superior and better tasting nutrition. At 104010, our mission is to take back what it means to be an American through fitness. The common theme? American. When I see or hear that word, I get goosebumps. This is what Zam would love to get behind. I like to think he is looking down and feeling proud.
Every order from BattleBars.com includes an insert with a bio on a hero and what they have done to make our community better. You can submit your own here. At 104010 – We encourage our athletes to write the name of a local hero on “Zam’s Hero Wall”. They send us a short bio which will be displayed on a landing page to learn about these great people who make our community and ultimately our country what it is. Each workout they do will carry their thought in mind creating a domino effect of purpose. Give American’s purpose and we will always come out victorious.
Together we can make our community better by bettering yourself. Snack better with Veteran made products free of trash ingredients and actually taste good. Take care of your body and be selfish for 1 hour a day. Have pride in being fortunate enough to be born in the United States of America. Whatever your fight is, stick with it. BELIEVE in what you are doing. I believe in you. We believe in you.
This is my fight. This is why I Train American. This is why I want Battle Bars to be in the hands of every American. For Pat and his family. For my family. For my country.