We riders come from all genders, beliefs, races, and creeds
And we’re united by one desire; helping veterans in need
The Gauntlet passed from rider to rider
As a 310-mile reminder
Of the 22 who daily slip through our grasp
With extended arms we wish to clasp
To help make a better day
We have some things to say
We The People of RA will help our veterans
With this year’s 545,000 weapons
To help combat a home’s vanishing lights
And withstand winter’s might
During this year’s ride
We experienced unwavering pride
At the turn of a head
We’d offer service to a friend
From the 4:30am wakeup call from Locrash
To quite a few more who had an actual trail crash
We the riders of RA helped our tribe
We in our efforts did not compromise
We set an example that in the future
We will not need a single suture
For we are sisters and brothers
And we can inspire service to others
I was recruited to ride in RA 13 by a friend who told me how much fun the ride is and how meaningful the cause. I felt not only would it be a huge challenge, but it would be a meaningful and fun experience. After signing up, I started learning more about OSC and that's when I realized that it was truly meant to be.
From 2007 until 2009, I worked on a project as a government consultant called the Wounded, Ill, and Injured Senior Oversight Committee. Essentially it was task force created jointly by the DoD and VA, to take action on a number of commissions and reports that had been released about the care and support of wounded Service Members. As part of the staff office, my role put me in the middle of all the action that this committee was working on.
A defining moment and one that I won't forget is when the Deputy Secretary of Defense was being briefed on money being requested in the DoD budget (POM process), and there was a line item requesting funding to support the families of the wounded Service Members, as they have to leave their jobs and their homes to come sit with the injured at the hospital when they convalesce after their return from war. It was a small amount compared to the whole ask (something like $40MM out of $15B being programmed). The answer was "No, we can't do that. How would it look for us to pay someone to do the job we should be doing?"
It was disheartening to say the least. We were doing great things, reducing the time it takes to be medically discharged, only requiring a single rating (not one from VA and one from DoD), looking deeper into TBI and PTSD, etc. However, they knew then that the families of the injured would suffer and suffer deeply, and they didn't solve that problem because of how it would look. It's a shame that OSC is needed because of the bureaucracy and politics of running the DoD and VA. You've heard "don't hate the player, hate the game"? Well, Cindy saw that and decided to change the game.
So, when I realized that what we are doing is filling that gap and helping those Service Members and their families, I realized that I belong on this ride, and belong with OSC.
I know the money I've helped raise will go far to helping many lives. And I know the family I've gained will continue to push and push to help those who need it most!
I initially met Cindy because I wanted to help veterans and wanted my UPS employees to have a local organization that we could help through volunteerism and with our United Way contributions.
When I met Cindy, it was soon after my father passed away and a month or so before his burial at Arlington Cemetery. My father was a decorated Army Colonel with multiple tours in Viet Nam and not until after his death did I learn about his disabilities and PTSD. My brother enlisted, become a soldier of the year with 82nd airborne, went on to OCS and is now in National Guard. The closest I came to serving was I got a nomination to West Point to satisfy my father but I was medically disqualified due to asthma. When I asked Cindy what my employees and I could do to help, she asked me to ride in this bike ride. My immediate reaction was, “look at me, I’m not a cyclist, I’m an old fat rugby player”. I gave it a lot of thought and knew it was something I had to do. I initially did the ride after a lot (but not enough) of training in 2015.
There are several reasons why I did the ride. I love this country and I have so much respect for those that have served I wanted to give back in whatever small way. I also saw what amazing things Cindy was doing with this organization and she asked me to ride. I have 3 beautiful young girls and I needed to get healthy, lose a lot of weight and get in shape for them. I also want my daughters to understand what this is all about and how important our servicemen and women are to us.
So, it was a great ride. I am proud to have done this again and ridden every mile. Proud to have helped raise an incredible amount of money and proud to be able to help those heroes who sacrificed for us.
The main reason I entered military service resulted from my father’s leadership and example. He enlisted in the US Coast Guard after high school, as did my uncle, his older brother. They both served as enlisted men and as officers during the Korean War and during the Vietnam War. Each served for over 25 years. My father was Captain of the US Coast Guard Cutter “SPAR”, a buoy tender, and the US Coast Guard Cutter “Active”, a medium endurance cutter. SPAR is an acronym of the US Coast Guard motto “Semper Paratus, Always Ready.”
As a result of my father’s example, each of my brothers and I went into military service. I served as a pilot in the US Navy and in the US Coast Guard. My younger brother Joe served as a US Army Special Forces Green Beret and was killed in the line of duty in 1988. My youngest brother, Mike, served in the US Army and after 30 years of service, he retired as a full Colonel. Additionally, my son John served in Afghanistan for 17 months; my son Joe served as an officer in the US Navy; and my nephew Justin Clark served two tours in Iraq as a combat medic. For me, military service became a family thing.
Serving in the military is an honorable profession. It provides opportunity, challenges, camaraderie and a chance to give back. It allows us to a part of something bigger than ourselves. It goes without saying that for each service member on the front line of any conflict or mission there are scores of others, military and civilian alike, who provide the support necessary for success. It is a family thing. As writer Stephen Kinzer put it, “There are [family members], nurses, schoolteachers, addiction counselors, community organizers, social workers, coaches, probation officers, and other civilians who struggle to keep Americans from slipping toward despair, sickness, or violence. They guide people away from hopelessness and toward productive lives. Society collapses without these people. Yet we rarely give them the chance to acknowledge the gratitude of cheering multitudes.”
I definitely agree; society would collapse without the Cindy McGrews of the world. Why did I choose to participate in Ride Allegheny? - For the same reasons that one chooses military service: the challenge, the camaraderie, a chance to give back, a chance to be a part of something bigger than myself, a chance to make a difference, a chance to honor those who have served. Why did I choose to participate in more than one Ride Allegheny? – Because once you finish you become part of a new family… it’s a family thing.
Paul, thank you again for honoring our Veterans.
Respectfully, Jim C.
I joined the Army right out of high school. I knew I was not ready for college and wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself before I furthered my education. I also remember the pride our family felt when my cousin was in Desert Storm.
I rode and learned of the event due to my association with OSC. I joined the advisory board this past year and felt it was important to take part in the biggest fundraiser we have.
I will continue to ride for a few reasons.
1. As a veteran, I deal with survivor’s guilt and this opportunity has filled a hole/void for me. It feels good to give back.
2. The people that ride and help put this together are some of the most genuine and caring folks I have met. I felt welcomed even though not knowing many at the start. I have made a lot of new friends whose hearts are in the right place and look forward to continuing these friendships.
3. Lastly and certainly not least, it is an example to my children and hopefully one day they will do the ride. I think it is important for our children to see us doing things that are difficult especially if it is for a cause bigger than ourselves.
Oh yeah, Cindy’s smile will also keep me coming back to this ride until I can no longer physically do it.
Thanks for asking and great to meet you.
I have lived with a continual ambivalence about US military actions around the world during my lifetime. I have been lucky enough and privileged enough to have never faced any extreme danger or deprivation, and have reaped the benefits of liberty, freedom and prosperity.
I have been saddened, maddened and ashamed for years by the hardships that veterans have endured in the country that they swore to serve. I have been frustrated by my own inertia in seeking some way to offer support.
Last November on a trip home to Kansas City I visited the National World War I Museum on Veterans Day. The commemoration and ceremony honoring the US Military -- including a playing of all five anthems, as we did on RA Banquet night -- was supremely moving, particularly seeing men and women stand and sing along when their branch's anthem, including my Dad, a 2nd. Lieut. in the Army. This was, finally, enough of a catalyst to get me off my ass.
I had contributed to RA riders in the past and remembered their stories about the effect and impact of the event. My love of cycling tied perfectly into this opportunity to raise funds in support of veterans. When I started fundraising this year, I was floored by the response I got from friends, family and work colleagues, and it forced me to increase my modest goal a couple times.
And a rookie, I approached the ride as a personal challenge, but also as a way to give back and share a common endeavor. I was so deeply gratified by the spirit and camaraderie throughout the group. It was all much, much more than I imagined, and I am very thankful.
I’m an interloper. I wasn’t born here. I have no family members in the US military. Although I had relatives who fought the Nazi’s and were never the same afterward. I chose to become a citizen and am proud of that. I came from a once great country destroyed by socialism where really bad things happen/ed. I see the US as a beacon of hope for the entire world and that hope is secured by our incredible military. This Country, through our Military, has brought more good and prosperity to the world than any other in history. If people actually read a book or two and ignored talking points, they’d quickly come to the same conclusion. So it sickens me when people (who have absolutely no idea what it means to live in places where truly bad things happen regularly) disrespect this Country and our military. This place isn’t perfect but name any group of people that haven’t found a better life here compared to where they ran from? I have no idea how we’ve gotten to this point of self-loathing other than pure ignorance. So for me, this is simply a way to do my part since I got started late and help these incredible people who risk their lives so we can be as ignorant as we’d like... or not. Seeing some of the So, for all the vets we ride with, I thank you from the bottom of my heart and I feel guilty that I don’t do enough.
I joined RA bc I began riding with the guys on their Sat/Sun rides out of the Kentlands after moving back here. As a Vet, I needed to feel like I can contribute something to someone, somewhere as I am not a combat Vet. A part of me is lost because I don't have that moniker and feel I didn't fully contribute. RA is my way of feeling like I gave to cause. While I'd never been a front-line guy even if I deployed, a part of me is empty.
As a Vet who has lost a co-worker to PTSD-induced suicide, it's heart breaking to see the impact to the wife and daughter he left behind and knowing the circumstance of how he notified his wife of his action. I started a bike club at SHAPE (Belgium) with a guy who was the SACEURs on-site engineer. He was instrumental to our cycling club and an absolute hammer on the pedals. He was PCS'd to a unit in IRQ. The first mission he went on, they took horrible losses. He was MIA when they returned. 2nd mission went out to recover him. Details are sketchy, people were relieved of command, and what really happened to him. But when found he was beaten and battered and basically bleeding from every facial orifice he has. He'll never, ever ride a bike. He can't do anything for himself and he's never going to be the guy I chased on a bike all over Belgium. He's on a cocktail of drugs and his wife quit her job to become his full-time healthcare aide. I can't bring myself to go see him as I know it will be crushing for me because he was just a good dude and was a superb Soldier. My wife is in contact with his family via Facebook, but I can't bring myself to read about him because it's not something I can deal with and am fighting back tears as I write this.
I ride not only for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for me to work from home, drive on paved roads, live a comfortable life and have 1st world problems. I ride for Dwayne and Kris and their families like many others who must endure massive heartbreak, loss, and struggle daily without recognition from the very institution which should offset their sacrifices and impart some level of assistance. Yes, I signed a contract to give my life. I love my country and would still give my life to defend her. But our government needs to realize the impact on Veterans and their families and give back like we gave to the military.
Both my Grandfathers were in WW2 and my Dad joined during Vietnam so in 1991 my Senior year of High School, when the Gulf War started I told my parents I wanted to go serve. Still 17 they took me to the Recruiter and signed me away, 4 days after graduating I shipped to basic. So, I guess I joined out of Duty to my Country and Tradition to my Family.
In 2012, I was Medically Discharged. The physical injuries, the PTSD, I became really depressed and gained A LOT of weight. I needed to do something to get out of the house, I needed to get back healthy, I needed to start socializing again. My doctor suggested Cycling as a form of Exercise since it was low impact. I did a WWP Soldier Ride and really enjoyed being out there with other guys going through the same issues. Then Independence Fund gave me bike so that I could ride more!
I've lost 40lbs, I've come off several Medications, I don't sit at home recluse anymore, Cycling did this. But I still need motivation and that's what these Veteran rides are. Something to look forward too, something to train for. Unfortunately, other organizations have stopped doing rides or cut their ride programs so much it's impossible to get on a ride with thousands of applicants.
I especially like Ride the Alleghany because it's one of the only rides where I feel comfortable around EVERYONE not just the Veterans. The people who participate in this ride go above and beyond to make us Veterans feel welcome and comfortable which we don't always feel in society or around crowds. Thank Everyone for giving us this experience!
I first did the ride because my wife said I couldn’t finish. After meeting Cindy, was hugely impressed with the difference she makes with her soldiers. So, kept involved as best I could. After taking a year off was really impressed with all of this year’s riders and your accomplishments.
I ride for the challenge, the comaradery and knowing that we're raising money for a great cause. (non-vet)
I am a veteran. I joined because the values of our Army (loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, personal courage) resonated with me when I was young. I was drawn to the service because of this, and the men and women that I've served with during my time in the military have galvanized my dedication to these values. None more than the young men and women serving in harm’s way. My brother Larry's email yesterday recounting the story of the two Marines in Ramadi demonstrated these values in action on one dusty road halfway across the world, and just as sure as those young Marines were holding their ground to protect their sleeping comrades...they were protecting us, in our beds back home...
I rode this year, because my brother asked me to. There is no shortage of opportunities to support our Soldiers in need, but RA17 provided the opportunity to do more; support a great cause; a great organization; ride with family; spend more time with my daughter; meet like minded people, and the list goes on. Most importantly however, as a veteran, RA17 allowed me to continue to live the values of our military profession, with effect. I am inspired to do more.
I ride for my dad, father in law, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. A couple of my cousins have served in the Navy during the recent campaigns. During Vietnam, my dad ran the nuke power plants on the USS Enterprise and my uncle earned multiple purple hearts as a member of the Blackhorse 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Vietnam. My father in law could not tell us what he did in Vietnam except he was in Army communications. My Uncle is in Arlington and I go visit during the wreath laying for RA. My Grandfathers and one grandmother served in the WWII. One grandfather in the Navy, one with the 10th Mountain and served in occupying Japan. My grandma was a WAC. My great grandfather was gassed in WWI and survived.
I have not served in the military, but I am a public servant at the National Institutes of Health with the National Institute on Mental Health. We have active research underway for trauma, PTSD and suicide among other conditions. I serve to make sure our clinical trials are done with respect to the participants, many of whom are vets. I help with the NIMH effort with the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention making sure the research portfolio is balanced.
I still have work to do to help reduce the 22 to zero.
Still in the service of others...
From the time I was a child I wanted to serve my country. Life took different paths and it wasn't until after I had my children that I was able to join the greatest Navy in the world. I joined the military for the children, so they could have the life, opportunities, and privileges that we hold dear.
Over the past several years, after being injured, my children and I have needed the resources and help that OSC offers. I felt that the best way to show my gratitude for what they have done for us, was to support the very activity that allows them to help the wounded warriors. RA17 was life changing for me and I will never be able to truly show you all just how much it means to me and my children. I hope to participate again, and who knows, maybe my kids will join me sometime as well!
Leah (a grateful wounded warrior)