Recap of the 1st Week

WOW!  It has been an incredible 9 days so far, so I’ll try to recap in some sort of chronological order.

Fri – Feb 28 – An awesome send off at Clemson University at the Scroll of Honor (honoring Clemson students killed during all conflicts).  The AFROTC cadets, Pershing Rifles, students, & faculty came together for an emotional & heartfelt memorial ceremony honoring the 96 South Carolinians killed in Iraq & Afghanistan.  I was honored & humbled to have Rick & Cindy Roth & their daughter Amy there to honor the life & service of their son, Corporal Jason S. Roth, who we rode in memory of on Sat.  So heartwarming to see my old & new friends there.

Lots of butterflies that night, saying goodbye to my Mom, & her wishing me Godspeed early on Sat morning.

Sat – Mar 1 – Departing from Tillman Hall, cheered on by vets including Larry Druffel & Derek Popham, with AFROTC cadets in a peloton, led by Luke Watson with support by Drew Stephens (who officiated at the ceremony the day before).  One of my oldest & dearest friends, Greg Bauld, provided the much needed support & encouragement for the first day where we ended up at Newberry, SC, with a Memorial Ceremony in Veteran’s Park across from the Opera House.  http://laweb.htl.dc.publicus.com/news/home_top-news/3794607/Von-Kaenel-travels-solo-to-Alaska-after-visiting-Newberry

Overnight accommodation kindly provided by Henry Summers

Sun – Mar 2 – Pushing on to Columbia with Greg, reminiscing our 50 + years of knowing each other, was more like a celebratory ride when we arrive at the State Capitol at Columbia at noon, greeted by his wife, Denise, daughter, Katie, son-in-law, Bobby, & Yvette, from Senator Lindsey Graham’s office.

A chance to relax at Bobby & Katie’s house with them, Greg,  Denise, & Bobby’s Mom – Laura.  Said goodbye to Greg & Denise & started preparing for Aiken.

Mon – Mar 3 – On to Aiken to the Veteran’s Job Fair hosted by Congressman Joe Wilson with the Director of the Veteran & Military Students Success Center at USC Aiken Robert Murphy hosting my stay & providing overnight accommodation.  Unbelievable support for the trip by everyone.  Cycling to Robert’s house that evening for dinner and to spend the night.  A wonderful meal & fellowship with vets Colin & Harry (and Harry’s partner, Jessica) with Robert’s wife, Lisa being a wonderful hostess.  It is incredible the kind of relationship building that these people and this organization does in terms of connecting veterans and military students with USA Aiken.

One memorable event – a cold front coming through dropping the temperature about 20 degrees very quickly.

Tue – Mar 4 – Breakfast with Robert & Lisa, cycling to USA Aiken to have a Memorial Ceremony at the Student Activities Center.  I was honored to call the name of Corporal Matthew Dillon as the last name to be remembered in the presence of his parents at the Center.  The ride was dedicated in his memory.

Students & veterans were very supportive & respectful – Chancellor Jordan provides inspiring leadership & I thank her for her support for this.
Cycling 35 miles at noon from Aiken to Augusta, getting to Darling Hall at Fort Gordon, GA and conducting the first Memorial Ceremony for the 209 Georgians killed in Iraq & Afghanistan.  Surrounded by over 80 senior non-commissioned officers and junior officers in Darling Hall was truly overwhelming.  All participated in the reading of these 209 names and after reading a selected poem whose last line is “We will remember them’ was echoed by all in unison “We will remember them”.  The Executive Director of the Augusta Warrior Project Kim Elle, who hosted the visit and Janice Barnshaw pulled out all the stops.   My special thanks to Major General Patterson the Commanding General of Fort Gordon and Command Sergeant Major Pflieger attending the ceremony.  Thanks also to Colonel Stephen Elle, the Commander of the 15th Regimental Signal Brigade for his active support of the event.

The ride on the following day was dedicated in memory of Doctors Dan Dickinson & Matthew Burke, tragically killed a couple of years ago in separate bicycling accidents.

The evening, hosted by Kim & Steve Elle, was another reminder of what I love about the US military, the tightly knitted sense of camaraderie & family that reaches out across the years and throughout the ranks and branches of the military.  It is emblematic of our nation’s family & the Elle (and Murphy) families are wonderful examples.

Wed – Mar 5 – Steve Elle getting me out of Fort Gordon & Augusta on a road that I could safely cycle (thanks Steve!) then cycling towards Statesboro.  Weather was cold but dry and road conditions were good so was able to get the 75 miles in by 4 pm to Statesboro, meeting with Heidi Jeffers (and Becky) at Statesboro, and was greeted by Mayor Nancy Moore.  We had the Memorial Ceremony inside City Hall  http://www.statesboroherald.com/section/1/article/57602/

Incredible to see the town support for this short notice event.  Very kind words by Mayor Moore and goodwill by the residents of Statesboro.

Attended Ash Wednesday Service at St Matthews Church, then a supper in the church hall and was very kindly put up for the night by the parish priest, Fr Clark in a guest room – a nice time to reflect on the past few days.

Thu – Mar 6 – Challenging ride in the rain – temperatures in the high 30s with a steady rain, cycling 50 miles to Fort Stewart in Hinesville, GA.  Cycling through Stewart, I could hear the tanks firing on the ranges and see the troops training in the rain that I was cycling through.  The only difference was I could stop & get dry whenever I wanted, they were training up to a standard to ensure that they could defend our country at a moment’s notice, & this takes precedence.

Stayed the night at a local hotel provided by St Stephens Parish Church, dried off & warmed up for the next day.

Fri – Mar 7 – Rain was light, the temperature was 41 & Kingsland, GA was 100 miles away, so departed early and rode about 9 hours until reaching Kingsland at 4:00 pm.  Met Mayor Kenneth E. Smith, a Vietnam Vet who presided over one of the most personal & touching Memorial Ceremonies at Veterans Park in Kingsland.

Then had the best restaurant meal at Steffers Restaurant where the atmosphere is more like a family dining room than a restaurant.  Kris, Taylor, & Linda were simply wonderful.

The next morning, Linda took me across I-95 into Florida as the bridge was being repaired on the local US route I had been cycling.

Sat – Mar 8 – Cycling in Florida, I saw the sun!  First time in 3 days!  Temperatures were rising and was able to get to St Augustine by 3:00 – about 80 miles.  Had the Memorial Ceremony in Veteran’s Park, negotiated my way back by bike to the hotel amidst the sea of motorcycles (St Augustine had a motorcyle rally this weekend in conjunction with Daytona Beach).

Sun – Mar 9 – REST DAY!  Slept, ate, did laundry, then was greeted by Shep & Collos from PTSDAwarenessRide.org, on behalf of its founder, Janine Lutz.  Shep & Collos have the PTSD Awareness Vehicle as my support vehicle going down to Davie, FL – exciting times – can’t wait to meet Janine!

Finally, & most importantly, I want to thank my very dear friends – the CEO of Sea2Sea, John Sprowl, and the Secretary/Director of Social Media/General Go To Person, Tricia Murdock for their support of this trip.  We are a three person non-profit organization.  I just ride the bike – John & Tricia do everything else.

It is safe to say that Sea2Sea would be just a dream for me if not for them, so my profound thanks & gratitude to John & Tricia.

More to follow for Week 2 of the Sea2Sea 2014 Challenge.

Pedaling with Pride Down Memory Lane, Guest Blogger: Greg Bauld

Guest Blogger, Greg Bauld

greg bauldOne of the best things about growing older is you get extra chances to do things you love with people you love.

That just happened to me this week as I got the opportunity to cycle thru the state I love with one of my very best friends. When Thomas told me that I should ride with him to Columbia, I was really intrigued. Initially excited, that excitement turned to trepidation after my training started!!

I quickly realized that I’m not as young as I thought I was. But with his encouragement, I set off with my great friend Saturday morning from Tillman Hall in Clemson, SC. Little did I know that I was about to embark on 2 of the very best days of my life.

As we left Clemson University that morning, I was reminded how much I love that university. Then we pedaled thru my present town of Pendleton right by my house where the most important person in my life, my wife Denise, was waving and encouraging us.

From there we set out on a journey that allowed me to enjoy my friend but also the beautiful landscape of the state that I love. As we moved on down the back roads of South Carolina, I was reminded of the many blessings that God has given me. As we moved thru Pelzer, I was so excited to see one of my very dearest friends Verna Ballinger who drove 30 miles to cheer us on.

How cool is that??

We continued on til we got to Newberry where Tom led a very emotional Memorial honoring the men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice for their country and their families and friends who are left to pick up the pieces after the loss of their loved ones. I can’t thank Thomas enough for allowing me to join in that Memorial.

The next morning we headed to our capital city of Columbia where I knew my beautiful daughter Katie and her husband Bobby would be waiting for us along with Denise and her friend Yvette from Senator Lindsey Grahams office. As we pedaled up Main Street in Columbia on Sunday morning, a sense of pride, accomplishment and gratitude totally engulfed me.

I was and always will be so proud that my friend Thomas Von Kaenel shared these 2 days with me. I urge everyone who is reading this blog, go dust off your old bicycle. Look on Sea2Sea.org and find out when Tom is coming thru your area.

Take the time to reconnect with the great feeling of doing something for your body and your mind. Remind yourself how important friends and family are to you. Ride, even if only a mile or two, through the state that you love and be reminded of our fallen heroes who have allowed us to enjoy all these blessings.

Godspeed to you Thomas!! My prayers will be with you and an ice cold adult beverage will await you on your safe return!!   ~ greg

Clemson Air Force ROTC holds event to honor start of nationwide bike ride for military charity

by KATHERINE SCHENCK

This article originally appeared in The Tiger on March 7, 2014  | Link to original article

Lieutenant Colonel Tom von Kaenel (retired) began a 120-day journey on Saturday, March 1. Lt. Colonel von Kaenel, who resides in Six Mile, S.C., is participating in the second bi-annual Sea2Sea Challenge. He will be biking from America’s southernmost point, Key West, Fla., to the northernmost state, Juneau, Alaska. During the 120-day ride, Lt. Colonel von Kaenel will cover approximately 7,000 miles.

The first Sea2Sea Challenge took place in Spring 2012. Lt. Colonel von Kaenel and friends began in Ocean Shore, Wash., and arrived at Arlington National Cemetery on July 4, 2012. The group travelled almost 4,200 miles during their 74-day journey.

The difference in Lt. Colonel von Kaenel’s first challenge and his second challenge is that this time, he will be alone. For 120 days he will bike by himself, relying on local communities to host him overnight throughout his journey.

The Sea2Sea Foundation is a United States Military charity headquartered in Suwanee, Ga. Their mission is to “give back to those who serve.” The Sea2Sea Foundation aims to remember those who are no longer with us and to continue to help those who were left behind.

“Clemson Air Force ROTC was so eager to support the Sea2Sea Foundation because of our shared values. Lt. Colonel von Kaenel’s dedication to challenge himself and do something for a cause much bigger than himself, goes hand in hand with what we learn in ROTC,” Nick Kuzjak, student coordinator for the event and senior civil engineering major, said.

Lt. Colonel von Kaenel and other participants are able to fulfill their goals of the challenge through the nightly memorial services. Every night after his bike ride, Lt. Colonel von Kaenel will lead a memorial service to remember those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

During the memorial service, Lt. Colonel von Kaenel and the Clemson Air Force ROTC honored the South Carolinians who lost their lives while in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Several students also attended the memorial service. “It was amazing to see so many Clemson students as well as other people in the Clemson community join together to honor the fallen soldiers from our state,” Samantha Algary, a sophomore history major, said. “The memorial service really put the sacrifice all of our military personnel make into perspective for those of us who aren’t exposed to it very often.”

“During the memorial service, 16 current AFROTC cadets read off the 96 names of South Carolinians who have given the ultimate sacrifice to our country during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom,” Kuzjak said.

“Tom then addressed the crowd and added a 97th name, a former soldier who took his own life after suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in November 2013. The event put into perspective the significance of Tom’s ride.”

“Hearing all of the names of the fallen soldiers and watching everyone’s reaction shows how committed to service the community is. Clemson began as a military academy, so we will always have strong ties to the United States Military,” Matt Olinger, a sophomore bioengineering major, said. “I have a lot of friends in Clemson’s ROTC program and I know the memorial service was very meaningful to them.”

Von Kaenel travels solo to Alaska after visiting Newberry

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Von Kaenel travels solo to Alaska after visiting Newberry By Elyssa Parnell eparnell@civitasmedia.com | Link to original Article

NEWBERRY — Cycling 7,000 miles across 13 states and parts of Canada might sound like a large undertaking, but for 58-year-old Tom von Kaenel, the venture is personal.

Tom Von Kaenel began his journey March 1 from the Scroll of Honor on Clemson's campus, making his way through Newberry that afternoon.

Tom Von Kaenel began his journey March 1 from the Scroll of Honor on Clemson’s campus, making his way through Newberry that afternoon.

Von Kaenel’s story began in 2010 in a hospital bed at the U.S. Army hospital in Landsthul, Germany. While cycling with a group of friends in the French Pyrenees Mountains, Von Kaenel hit a rock and crashed, leaving him with a shattered pelvis, a dislocated hip, a broken eye socket, and a concussion.

Being a retired Army lieutenant colonel, von Kaenel resolved that if he could ever walk again, he would bike across the country to raise awareness of servicemen and women who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Keeping his promise, von Kaenel began his journey March 1 from the Scroll of Honor on Clemson’s campus, making his way through Newberry that afternoon.

While in Newberry, as he will do at each stop along the way, von Kaenel held a ceremony honoring those fallen service members. The ceremony Saturday took place in Memorial Park in Newberry. After departing from Newberry, he continued his journey by heading toward Key West, Fla., before heading northwest Juneau, Alaska.

Tom von Kaenel, left, along with Norman Pursley, Luke Watson, and Greg Bauld, supporters of his journey.

Tom von Kaenel, left, along with Norman Pursley, Luke Watson, and Greg Bauld, supporters of his journey.

This is von Kaenel’s second bi-annual Sea2Sea Challenge as a part of the Sea2Sea Foundation. The foundation is a U.S. military 501(c)3 charity whose headquarters is in Suwanee, Ga. Its mission is to give back to those that served. Von Kaenel is the chairman of the foundation.

Differing from his first challenge in two ways, von Kaenel is cycling alone, simply relying on knowledge and assistance from local communities and cycling clubs and those that wish and are able to cycle any part of the distance with him.

“Most people can’t take four months out of their work schedules to do this sort of thing so I’m relying on people wanting to go specific legs of the journey, whether it’s just a few miles or day or two,” von Kaenel said. “But it’s important to have local knowledge of an area to know what routes to take and what to avoid.”

Training

Von Kaenel said his training for a challenge such as this is simple — he does a lot of intensive training, as well as training while on the job. He said he has not cycled very much, but said that to be “cycling fit,” it doesn’t take too much training, just about two to three weeks.

According to von Kaenel, if a person is fitted to their bicycle correctly, a journey such as this does not become nearly as hard.

“It’s like wearing a pair of shoes, if it’s comfortable and fits well, it’s kind of like walking,” von Kaenel said. “Before long you’re kind of increasing your mileage.”

Von Kaenel said he enjoys cycling because you’re using your own power and can go a long way in a day, and can sometimes go to more places than you can by walking, or taking a car.

Why Newberry?

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Tom von Kaenel takes a moment to remember lives lost of soldiers who have served our country in Iraq and Afghanistan.

From the town of Six Mile in Pickens County, von Kaenel said his goal is to stop at each state capitol along his way to Alaska.

“Newberry was on the way, and I thought, what a wonderful town full of history,” von Kaenel said.

Having never visited Newberry, von Kaenel said he most looked forward to visiting the Newberry Opera House and thought it would be a great way to end his first day of cycling.

At the ceremony in Memorial Park, von Kaenel gave each participant several names, which contained a veterans name, rank, hometown, and date of death. Each person took turns reciting the name of a lost soldier, taking a moment of silence to remember the 96 South Carolinians that have perished during their duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Those people are sons and daughters, husbands, wives, nieces, nephews, and grandfathers,” von Kaenel said. “They paid ultimate price by serving our country and I feel its our duty to absolutely remember that.”

While reciting each name, von Kaenel pointed out that the oldest life lost was 59, with the youngest being 19 years old.

“When you read the obituaries and you see that they are survived by a host of family and friends, it just breaks your heart,” von Kaenel said.

Stepping off the Bike

After stepping off the bike from his journey to Alaska, von Kaenel will return back to his home in Six Mile, where he is a business consultant, as well as a life coach, where he works with individuals objectively with what they want to do in life.

Von Kaenel encourages others to reach out to local veterans organizations to see how they can help.

“I know we have a lot of challenges and issues in our society today, but we also have best military in world and we need to raise our game to give back to those who have served,” von Kaenel said.

Another challenge von Kaenel issues is to put three words in front of the phrase “thank you for your service.” Those words are “how can I?”

What this does, von Kaenel said is starts the commitment process back because you are asking what you can do for them, which could involve your time, talent, or treasure (money).

Von Kaenel said a lot of veterans need our time, but also need to feel appreciated and valued for their service.

“For them to know their service is firstly understood, and also appreciated by their country, is a good way to start,” von Kaenel said.

Cross-country cyclist memorializes fallen warriors

By AL HACKLE ahackle@statesboroherald.com

Link to Original Article

Tom von Kaenel of Six Mile, S.C., reads the name of a 19-year-old soldier who was killed in action in Iraq during a brief memorial ceremony at City Hall Wednesday afternoon. Von Kaenel stopped in Statesboro for the night during his journey from Six Mile to Key West, Fla., and then to Juneau, Alaska, in honor of all troops killed during combat in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Tom von Kaenel of Six Mile, S.C., reads the name of a 19-year-old soldier who was killed in action in Iraq during a brief memorial ceremony at City Hall Wednesday afternoon. Von Kaenel stopped in Statesboro for the night during his journey from Six Mile to Key West, Fla., and then to Juneau, Alaska, in honor of all troops killed during combat in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Stopping in Statesboro on a planned 6,000-mile-plus bicycle journey across America, Tom von Kaenel led roughly 50 people in a brief memorial service in the lobby of City Hall to Georgians who died in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Cards with information on each of Georgia’s 209 dead from the recent combat were issued to the local people. Following von Kaenel’s instructions, they read the name, rank, age, hometown and date of death of each fallen warrior before laying the cards one by one around a folded flag.

With everyone reading at once, the sound became a sort of room-filling murmur, then trailed off until there were three deceased veterans left, then two, then one.

“If we do this simultaneously, in a low, measured, prayerful way, people can get an idea of the chaos that occurs when a life is taken. …,” von Kaenel had said. “It’s very, very overwhelming when you hear all these voices.”

He read the last himself, “Worthington, Robert A., Private First Class … just 19 years old.” Georgia’s dead from the recent wars range in age from 18-57. Worthington, from Jackson, died May 22, 2007, in Iraq. The flag von Kaenel brought for the purpose had flown, he said, over the U.S. Capitol and in combat areas in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

Von Kaenel, who departed Clemson, S.C., on Saturday, intends to conduct similar rituals in cities across America as he rides. His path will take him down to Key West, Fla., back up to Florida’s capital, Tallahassee, and on through 10 more states and a number of their capitals, from Montgomery, Ala., to Juneau, Alaska. He plans to arrive in Juneau on July 4, then fly back to Atlanta on his way to a July 8 homecoming in Clemson.

He chairs a nonprofit corporation, Sea2Sea, founded in 2012, whose goals are to remind Americans of those who gave their lives and to promote charitable organizations that benefit veterans and military families. Sea2Sea collects no money itself, he said. He and three other Sea2Sea riders in 2012 bicycled 4,200 miles from the Pacific shore of Washington state to Arlington National Cemetery at Washington, D.C. This time he is riding solo.

A resident of Six Mile, S.C., near Clemson, von Kaenel, 58, retired from the Army in 1997 as a lieutenant colonel, but never served in combat. Instead, the incident he credits as inspiration was a 2010 crash during a bike ride in the Pyrenees Mountains of France. He was airlifted from a French hospital to a U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, and found himself surrounded by American service members wounded in the wars.

Mayor Jan Moore welcomed von Kaenel to Statesboro and took part in the ceremony.

“I think I can look around the room and everybody will agree it was very moving,” Moore said. “I don’t think people knew really quite what to expect, but it couldn’t have been a better way to celebrate Ash Wednesday.”

Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.

In Memory of Daniel L Dickinson

In Memory of – March 5 Ride – Augusta, GA to Statesboro, GA

Dr Daniel L. Dickinson – died August 1, 2011

Excerpts from the Articles:

A Fort Gordon doctor died Monday after being struck by a car while traveling to work on his bicycle.

Dr. Daniel L. Dickinson, 57, is the second Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center doctor to die from a cycling incident in the past six months.

According to Richmond County sheriff’s Capt. Scott Gay, Dickinson was riding his bicycle near the intersection of Belair and Asbury roads around 6:30 a.m. when a 2003 Buick Regal driven by 76-year-old Charlie Bussey struck him from behind.

Gay said those who knew Dickinson “said he rides his bike from his house off of Walton Way to Fort Gordon a couple of times a week.” … Read the full article

One role in particular was repeated more than any other, though, when those who knew Dickinson talked about him Tuesday: encourager.

“He was just an optimistic person, always with a smile on his face,” said Phil Cohen, whose relationship with Dickinson goes back 20 years.

For Cohen, the owner of the Chain Reaction bicycle shop in Martinez, Dickinson was an encourager on the long training rides they would take out of Augusta. If Cohen ever fell back, Dickinson always slowed and pumped him up with his words.

“He wouldn’t leave me behind,” Cohen said.

Dickinson was a longtime cyclist and even crossed the country in 1993′s Race Across America. He was pedaling to work at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center around 6:30 a.m. Monday when he was hit from behind by a car. He died a few hours later from his injuries; he was 57…. Read the full Article

 

The Beginning 2014

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This gallery contains 9 photos.

The Beginning – 2014 Sea2Sea Challenge Thanks to all those who contributed time and resources for our ride. Thanks to those who took pictures and video. If you have videos or photos you would like to send to us to use, please upload them to our facebook page. Many thanks … Continue reading

A retired soldier is paying back what he says is a debt to the U.S. army

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Posted: Mar 04, 2014 4:40 PM EDT Updated: Mar 04, 2014 4:40 PM EDT

Written by Elizabeth Hughes, Reporter | Link to Original Article

3352485_GA retired soldier from South Carolina is paying back what he says is a debt to the US Army. His journey started Monday, and his second stop was USC Aiken, South Carolina.

Tom Von Kaenel has vowed to ride his bicycle from the tip of the Florida Coast to Alaska to show his appreciation to the U.S. Military for saving his life.  

It’s hard to believe that just four years ago, retired vet Tom Von Kaenel was in a life threatening bicycle accident that left him with a shattered hip and broken pelvis. He was transported to military hospital in France where he says, hospital staff saved his life.

 Now he plans to ride his bicycle across the U.S. to honor the people that saved him.  “Thank you, this is my way of giving back pure and simple.”

Kaenel’s bike tour is sponsored by the Sea2Sea U.S. Military non-profit organization. An organization that’s purpose is to give back to those who served.  USC Aiken’s veteran Military Student Success Center’s Robert Murphy says having the event on Campus is the best way to bring notoriety to the youth of South Carolina.  “but the interesting thing I think will take place tonight, I when they are away from their friends and back in their dorm, they are going to contemplate on what they just heard and what they just saw-and it might cause them to go a little bit deeper in their studies whether its religion philosophy, why do people go to war and maybe cause them to go a little bit deeper.”

The students I spoke with at UCS Aiken, on campus had no idea Von Kaenel would be showing up, and say after hearing his story, they are rooting for him whole heartedly.

Ally Brown, a student said Tuesday, “It just made me love, and respect the military even, more and want to encourage them.”

Danielle Seibert, another student says, “it makes me really grateful and thankful for not only my family but everyone else serving in the military, because we take that for granted on a daily basis.”

Von Kaenel says being here with the students is just the start of his long journey, and he hopes that sharing his story will remind the students of the dedication and commitment the U.S. Army has for Americans. “This kind of event changes your life because you see the depth, the devotion and sacrifice these men and women servicemen make.”

Von Kaenel should finish his journey in July, and says the road won’t be easy but it’s the least he could do to thank the men and women who saved his life.