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I want each of you to know why I am riding, solo on my motorcycle, 10,000 miles to raise donations for our most seriously wounded veterans.  Please read so you can understand just how important your support is…

In a previous post I told you what an honor it was to meet , in Union County, Ohio, with  Dale Bartow, Executive Director, Veterans Service Commission and Office,   Bill Howard and  Ken Bonnell, Chairman, Union County Military Family Support Group. These men along with Homes For Our Troops, have come together to build a specially adapted home for Staff Sergeant Jason Gibson. 

On May 30, 2012, while assigned to a dismounted patrol on a route clearance mission for the Infantry in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, Army Staff Sergeant Jason Gibson stepped on a hidden improvised explosive device (IED). The blast resulted in catastrophic injuries to both legs, a deep wound in the right forearm and the amputation of the tip of his left index finger. SSG Gibson has no memory of the nearly fatal explosion that day, which occurred some three months into his third deployment.

Following his medical evacuation from the battlefield to Kandahar Airfield Hospital, and then transported to Bagram Air Force Base, Jason would also be treated in Landstuhl, Germany. There, doctors worked feverishly to save his right leg, but he was becoming septic and had lost profound tissue from his thigh, requiring doctors to amputate the right leg as well (called a bilateral hip disarticulation.) This rare form of amputation accounts for about 2 percent of the country’s amputee population; so far in their journey, SSG Gibson and his wife Kara have only heard of four other soldiers with this level of amputation.

Weeks later, SSG Gibson was moved to Walter Reed where he underwent almost 20 surgeries for his wounds including a skin graft on his arm, as well as aggressive physical and occupational therapy. Despite his life-altering wounds, however, Kara feels grateful that Jason only suffered a mild concussion, and to this day, that he shows no signs of Traumatic Brain Injury or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Jason enjoys hand cycling, surfing, golfing, skiing, fishing, and being an active member in his community with the Church of Christ. He would like to return to school but is undecided about what he would like to do for his future career. Kara would like to resume her career as a physical therapist; she has supported her husband during every step of his rehabilitative exercises, and blogs about her experiences as the wife of a wounded veteran/amputee.

The couple would like to start a family, too, and look forward to living in a home that meets Jason’s accessibility challenges. They are grateful for the support and new life of independence that they will receive in the way of a specially adapted home from Homes for Our Troops. Says Jason, “We have been traveling a lot lately and we are finding that many places are not wheelchair friendly even though they claim to be ADA compliant. It would be great to have actually have an ADA complaint place of our own- one that I can live and function in.”

 

 

 

 

Local Support

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Attachment-1Sunday July 13th was an incredible opportunity to learn first hand how local people and organizations are delivering support to  to military service members and returning veterans.  Two Ohio groups are doing the work that President Lincoln referred to in his second inaugural address,

“…To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.” The men pictured with me above are delivering on that promise everyday in Union County, Ohio. To my left is Dale Bartow, Executive Director, Veterans Service Commission and Office,  to my right , Bill Howard and far right Ken Bonnell, Chairman, Union County Military Family Support Group. Each of these men have served with distinction in the military and now continue to serve their country and the individual needs of our troops. I am honored to have spent time with these men at a picnic for the service men and women of Ohio National Guard,C Battery, 1-174th Air Defense Artillery. This outstanding unit will  deploy to Washington DC for one year. And you can be sure that that both service member and family will be supported during and after their deployment. My respect and appreciation for their work will inspire me for the rest of my journey throughout America.

 

 

Homes For Our Troops

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Yesterday I had a informative visit with all the “great people” at “Homes For Our Troops.” It was very inspiring to talk with them about their work “Building Homes and Rebuilding Lives.” They opened their doors to me and made me feel at home. Here is a photo from the visit…left to right are Brianne McNamara, Richard King, Timothy McHale (President/CEO), Chris Mitchell and Ashley Twigg.

New Friends

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Having breakfast in Woodstock Vermont. People fantastic! Here I am with two new friends who donated and joined the journey!! Left to right. April, RK, Candy. After a great breakfast and conversation they each handed me a cash donation. People helping people. The best.

The Unexpected

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photoIt’s the unexpected moments that make my ride so fulfilling. Checking out of the hotel today a young bellman helped me from room with the three metal cases and yellow dry bag. On the way to my bike he asked where I was riding to. So I told him about the ride to build specially adapted homes for our wounded vets. After a conversation he told me his dad although not a vet has been disabled since he was 9. Now he is working multiple jobs to save money to start a small business.
When I went to tip him he said please add what you planned to give me to this donation from me. It’s all I’ve earned so far today. It’s not much but I hope it helps. I shook his hand and told him there is no such thing as a small donation. He handed my his tips so far for the day…$8.00.
Tears in eyes. I began by days journey.

Turkey Suprise

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White turkey_resizedRiding along Rt 20 from Geneva NY to Austinburg OH, I had a destination in mind that was 20 miles short of my hotel. The

“White Turkey Drive-in.” Family owned since 1952, it is famous for it’s shredded white meat turkey sandwich and a root beer float.  
It was a long day of riding. The ride I am on can’t be judged by how many miles per day I ride. Because I have decided to ride the country roads of our American past, the going can be slow, so the best way to judge my westward progress is by how many hour a day I ride.  This day was 7 hours with helmet on. So when I saw the sign “enter here for the White Turkey Drive-In, there was a smile on my face as I down shifted, turned on the right hand blinker and turned into my dream destination. I was not disappointed.  Here it was, a small building with a square open air counter. In the back was a picnic pavilion with tables and a covered area for everything you might want to put on a shredded white meat turkey sandwich on a bun no less! Truth be known they also served hamburgers, cheeseburgers  etc…well you understand. But if you believe in America and you can possibly comprehend that there was actually a year  numbered 1952, then you are only interested in the turkey sandwich. (best description it is like the comfort sandwich you made the day after Thanksgiving on your favorite bread with a little mayo. Yes I said it mayo.) Ok back to the story!

I was eating my turkey, reminder of my mom’s turkey leftover sandwich, when a man walked  up   and said “great bike.”  I said thanks and he explained that he rode motorcycles since the late 50’s but decided to stop. I asked why and he held up his hands. His fingers were bent from arthritis. And he said in an almost apologetic tone , “can’t do it anymore…not safe.”  I admitted that I might be a little too old and running out of reaction time  to be riding 10,000 miles. We had a good laugh together…one of knowing what it’s like to be living a book that we  are turning the pages on a little to fast for comfort. Well we went through a memory lane of great bikes we have ridden…Honda 305’s, Norton’s, Triumph’s…he even talked about a Scout! We exchanged opinions about the qualities of each and laughed about how in 1966 a 750cc bike was “badass!”  At this point his wife and their female friend were sitting at a table in the pavilion waiting for him to join them so they could eat. I said hey good talking to you, go enjoy your dinner.  He thanked me and said “yes I better join the ladies.”  But He couldn’t resist  asking  about my ride. I explained how I was riding 10,000 miles solo to raise money to build specially adapted homes for our vets. That being said, we continued to talk for another half hour about the merits of belt drive, chain drive and shaft drive. I must tell you that if you are over 65 and have ridden them all, a great turkey sandwich can only lead to one winner..shaft drive. Dependable, quiet and low maintenance. About  all us old guys can handle at this point.  Finally, or so I thought, he shook my hand, wished me a safe ride and joined the ladies at the picnic table. So I swung my leg over the saddle, put on my helmet and prepared to leave. Looking back to wave goodbye, I saw my old time “new friend” curling his finger and gesturing for me to come over to his table. Ok ,I turned off the bike, took off my helmet and got off the bike .I walked over to where they were seated. He then handed me  two $5.00 bills and said this is for our warriors. I could not thank him enough. I took the money and asked for their names so I could post it on the website and give them the recognition that they deserved for their donation.  My new old friend said “no list it under your name..after all you are doing all the work. ” And then he added and you are taking a big chance out there on the road riding a motorcycle. I smiled and said “nothing to worry about.” It was at that moment  that I remembered saying those  very same words to my dad the night before I left for Vietnam. When you are 19 years old and find yourself ready to serve your country, once in combat, you learn the “white turkey surprise.”  The surprise is that everything that gave you comfort, family moments, time with friends, spending summers with all of life’s possibilities in front of you and your mom’s great leftover “white turkey sandwich” can be take away from you in an instant. I think in the end that together “we are doing all the work.”

Undercover Angel

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imageThis morning I left Troy NY heading for Geneva NY. Well It was only a few miles of following my programed GPS route that I realized that something was terribly wrong! I only want to ride America’s back roads…no highways. I want to pass through small towns and meet  the people that help make America great. But the GPS put me on the NYS Thruway and connecting MAJOR highways. So I took the first exit that came along drove down a country road and pulled into a small gas station. Kick stand down, engine off…now how do I find route 20. Rt 20 is the Old Oregon Trail and in most places is a 2 lane country road. Sun beating down, staring at a map, frustration taking over my mind…a cement truck pulls up right next to me. And a little to close for my liking. So I’m sitting on my bike looking at a map and now I have to deal with this guy! The driver of the truck leans out of the window and asks  what year my bike is…I say 2014 and return to reading my map, hoping he would move along. But the “driver” continued the conversation. Where are you heading, why ride alone, how far you going etc.! Before long I gave in and put down my map and joined the conversation. I forgot about my frustrating GPS problems and relaxed and enjoyed our conversation. Well after about a half an hour I asked “the driver” if he knew where Rt 20 was. He said sure I do…take that road right there to the end and make a left. Then follow the road for about 6 miles and you’ll come to Rt 20. I thanked “the driver” and before I headed out he asked if I had a card. So I gave him a Long Road Home business card. I followed his directions exactly and …no Rt 20. So frustration back I pull into a small store parking lot. I park the bike and ask a guy having a cup of coffee and a roll  as he leaned against his car, if he knew where Rt 20 was. What happens next? You guessed it…Where are you heading, why ride alone, how far you going etc! This time I just gave in and went with the conversation. I explained that I was riding 10,000 miles to raise money to build specially adapted homes for severely wounded vets. He asked a few questions and eventually we got to the part of the conversation concerning the whereabouts of Rt 20. Coffee in hand the guy says just go up that road, take Rt 7 and it will take you to Rt 20. So I said thanks, put my helmet on and the guy says by the way do you have a card… my good friend is a PTSD counselor for vets and police officers. I am going to call him right now and see if he can connect you with people to help your effort as you ride throughout  America.  Unreal! “the driver gives me the wrong directions which causes me to stop and ask again for directions, only to meet someone who will greatly help the effort to build homes for our vets! Well if you are still reading this, when I get to Geneva I have a voice mail from “the driver.” The message is “hey Rich This is RODNEY…so sorry that I gave you the wrong info. I forgot to tell you to take Rt 7 to Rt 20.  So pictured here is my “Undercover Angel, RODNEY.”

I am convinced that RODNEY directed me to the second stranger so I would receive the blessing of one more contact that can help our vets.

Here’s to you My Angel!

Quiet Hero

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Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 9.39.10 AMJuly 4, 2014 I learned that America’s real heros, except to a small group of people, may go unnoticed. They are the men and women that see their path of service to the country and selflessly take action. Nick Eufrazio is a true American hero who quietly served, sacrificed and demonstrates that actions speak louder than medals. On Thanksgiving Day, 2010, as part of the initial surge action in Afghanistan, Nick  suffered a traumatic brain injury, from enemy grenade fragments,  while on post at a forward operations base. Prior to suffering this life threatening injury, Nick was involved in over 50 fire fights in only a 4 month period, lasting 2-4 hours each.  Today at age 23, Nick’s new mission is to continue recovering from his wounds and resume a path of service to others.  I had the honor of spending Independence  Day with Nick and his family. Throughout our visit Nick, seated in a wheel chair, listened intently , as the family and I retraced this young warrior’s steps of service that led to Afghanistan.  Quietly he relived the fighting, his near death in war and his near death during his recovery back in the United States. As the difficult stories  unfolded, Nick remained engaged and positive. There is a presence that Nick has that demonstrates that this young man has a special quality of leadership and satisfaction for what he has accomplished. I will continue Nick’s story in the days ahead as I honor his service during my ride throughout the country.

Song for the Journey

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6514-gc-sessions-gavin-degraw-lp-slide-v13It’s July 3rd, tomorrow is the 4th and a celebration of America’s independence. I will share a special 4th with a wounded warrior. More on this tomorrow. But I wanted to share with everyone a song that captures a message that inspires my journey. It’s a message of hope and change. Change that we can join together and deliver to our most seriously wounded veterans. Every donation adds to our ability to give these vets the gift of freedom and personal independence.

Packed To Go

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img_1063Bike all packed! Ready for the 10am departure on Sunday June 29th. Let’s hope the journey raises a lot of money to help build specially adapted homes for our wounded vets.