Bike ride for veterans arrives Tuesday

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By Tim Linn
GateHouse News Service
Posted May 26, 2012 @ 07:39 AM

 Leavenworth, Kan. —

Set to arrive just after Memorial Day, Tom von Kaenel, a former American service member who now lives in the United Kingdom, said there’s no place he’d rather be Tuesday than Leavenworth.

Von Kaenel will hit roughly the midpoint of a 4,077-mile bicycle ride from the west to the east coast that day, but that’s not the reason he’s excited to come to the city. He said that date, that time, will be a perfect opportunity to illustrate just why he’s riding in the first place.

“In the week after Memorial Day, we thought it would be fitting to be at one of the most historical military posts in our country,” he said Friday.

Von Kaenel is biking across the country with memory in mind — he’s leading the Sea2Sea bicycle ride in honor of and in support for active-duty and veteran U.S. military members and their families and loved ones. Another leg is scheduled to begin in the U.K. for that country’s service members after the conclusion of the U.S. trip in July.

It’s something of a quest for von Kaenel, one that has at least three separate aims — he said he primarily wants to remember those service members who have fallen since 9/11. Secondly, von Kaenel said he wants to raise awareness and support all registered U.S. and U.K. veterans charity groups. The third aim?

“To rejoice,” von Kaenel said. “To celebrate the freedoms that we enjoy in this country.”

He said he’s hoping to have as many people come to the short ceremony scheduled for about 6 p.m. Tuesday at First Command Financial Planning, 1100 N. Fourth St., as possible. Like the other stops he’s made along his journey, he’ll host a “remembrance of the fallen ceremony” at that location, reading the names of 100 American and 10 British troops who have died since 9/11. Von Kaenel said cards will bear the name, rank and other information about that person and the names read at each stop come from that state or region.

“It really connects people on a very deep and emotional basis,” he said.

Fittingly, it was a similarly emotional experience that spurred von Kaenel’s desire to put the ride together in the first place. In 2009, he said he was in a bicycle accident in the Pyrenees which left him with multiple injuries, the most serious of which was a broken hip and a shattered pelvis. Confronting the possibility that he might never walk again and could even lose his life, von Kaenel said he asked to arrange for a transfer to the U.S.’s Landstuhl Regional Military Hospital in Germany. It was there, for two and a half weeks in a ward among active-duty servicemembers recently injured in combat zones, that he came to a realization.

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