When he's not busting a bronc, he's raising soldiers' morale
SAN ANTONIO, Texas — As a winner of three straight world bareback titles, Kaycee Feild has become one of pro rodeo's brightest stars.
But the Spanish Fork, Utah, cowboy's life is much more than bucking broncs and an eight-second ride.
For the past five years around Memorial Day as part of the Wrangler National Patriot Program, Feild has represented his country by helping to raise money for fallen soldiers and boosting morale to weary service members abroad, including Afghanistan.
"We usually go to the smaller FOBs (forward operating bases), where the guys don't see the Toby Keiths and other stars perform," Feild said. "It can get pretty emotional, but I love it. It's been one of the best experiences of my life."
Friday at the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo, the 26-year-old cowboy finished in the money with a score of 80 on a bronc named Ernie's Pet.
It came on Military Night, which was fitting given Feild's interest in visiting U.S. troops all over the world.
"I've probably been to 10-15 different countries," he said. "I'm honored to go on these trips, support our troops and say 'thank you.'."
According to Feild, when he was first recruited by Wrangler, a leading manufacturer of Western wear and a major PRCA sponsor, he agreed to go "just for the trips."
But from the beginning, it was a life-changing experience. Going to bases deep in the war zone, he said, are the most memorable.
"From sun up to sun down, all you hear is bang, bang, bang," Feild said. "All day long it echoes up and down the canyons.
"When the soldiers come back from a mission, they're pale and look like zombies. They see a cowboy and it brings a smile to their faces."
He said he dresses in full gear to look as Western as possible to bring them a little slice of home.
"The old West," he said.
Feild said sometimes he's asked to give a motivational speech, but mostly just talks about rodeo and whatever is on the soldiers' minds.
He said every year when he gets back home, he feels like a changed person. It's helped him stay grounded and keep things in perspective, he said.
"I credit those trips with a lot of my success," said Feild, who became the first bareback rider in history to win three straight Wrangler National Finals Rodeo average titles.
This year, the son of five-time world champion Lewis Feild said he's going abroad again. But he declined to divulge the destination.
"It's classified until we get there," said Feild, who won the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo in 2011, the same year he set the arena record with a 93 score.
Wherever it is, Feild figures to be front and center, shaking hands and sharing stories a world away.
He and his wife, Stefanie, are the proud parents of a 10-month-old girl. This helps Feild appreciate his time with the troops even more.
"Thanks to them, I go to bed and don't have to worry about anything but getting up and riding bucking horses," Feild said.