Preparing to depart Sycamore Springs Resort northeast of Sabetha Tuesday morning, May 29, to continue their mission are bicyclists (L-R) Tom von Kaenel and Alvon Elrod.
Photo courtesy of Bruce Hammersley
A unique small group with a huge mission arrived at the Sabetha Cemetery Monday morning, May 28, just in time to catch the end of the annual Memorial Day service hosted by our local veterans’ organizations.
The group included two bicyclists, Tom von Kaenel and Alvon Elrod, and Bruce Hammersly, a professional photographer who was driving an RV.
They had left Marysville early that morning and were planning to spend the rest of Monday at Sycamore Springs Resort northeast of Sabetha – which is how they happened to be traveling through Sabetha.
At the cemetery, they met and were engaged in conversation with Lafe Bailey, who ended up taking them to Harriet’s House, where his parents, Larry and Linda Bailey, were hosting a family gathering. There they enjoyed lunch and held their daily brief Remembrance of the Fallen Ceremony.
“In this daily ceremony, we call out the names of 100 U.S. and 10 British service members who were killed in action since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on U.S. territory,” von Kaenel said. “We remember, recognize and rejoice for those who died. This part of our mission is non-negotiable!”
On Tuesday the group was headed for Leavenworth National Cemetery, where they would hold the Remembrance of the Fallen Ceremony.
“Our ride will culminate at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., on July 3,” von Kaenel said. “There we will have the final remembrance ceremony, followed by an all-night vigil at the chapel at Fort Myer, Va.”
At the all-night vigil, they will place an index card with a name for each U.S. service member who was killed in action since 9-11. These 7,000 cards will serve as a visual reminder of how many 7,000 lives entails.
“The morning of July 4, we will gather up the 7,000 index cards and take them to the Marine Corps Memorial,” von Kaenel said. “There we will give them to cyclists who will carry them to the Lincoln Memorial, where a two-minute ceremony will complete the U.S. portion of this mission.”
The trio will then head back to England (the U.K.) for the remainder of Sea2Sea’s mission.
“On July 7 we will land at Heathrow International Airport and will lay a wreathe at the CENOTAPH National War Memorial in London on behalf of the American people,” von Kaenel said. “The night of the 7th, we will hold a ceremony with the British names.”
On the morning of July 8, the group will cycle back to RAF Brize Norton.
“That will be the end of the mission,” von Kaenel said.
The group’s experience in the United States, and especially Sabetha, is a memorable one, von Kaenel said.
“We’re just absolutely astounded by the generosity, hospitality and kindness of the American people,” he said. “Being invited to the Baileys’ home for lunch and the ceremony is a great example of our experience in this country.”
“We also were very impressed with the ceremony and the turnout at the Sabetha Cemetery,” he added.
Giving Back To Those Who Served
On Nov. 11, 2011, Tom von Kaenel, a retired American serviceman living in Oxfordshire, England, launched an ambitious international fundraiser to benefit U.K. and U.S. servicemen.
The challenge has begun. Starting at the Britannia Gate at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire and incorporating a cycle ride of over 4,200 miles, including 4,077 miles across the Continental United States from the west to the east coast, it will end at Washington, D.C., on July 4, 2012, before finishing in the U.K. on July 8, 2012.
The Sea2Sea Foundation aims to raise $10,000,000 for the various U.S. service member and veteran charity organizations (i.e. Paralyzed Veterans of America, American Legion, Wounded Warriors, Heroes for Hire and No Greater Sacrifice to name a few) and £5,000,000 to benefit the various U.K. service member and veteran charity organizations (i.e., Army Benevolent Fund, British Legion and Help for Heroes).
Funds raised through sponsorship will be paid direct to the charities through their own web sites.
“The mission of Sea2Sea is simple: to give back to U.K. and to US service men and women who have served since 9/11,” von Kaenel said. “We do this by providing a website that provides a comprehensive list of registered U.K. and U.S. charities that are related to benefiting the Armed Forces of these two countries.
“[We] welcome help from anyone who wishes to give their support and expertise. We are completely apolitical and are not in competition with any other U.S. or U.K. charity. In fact, our website will host the names, addresses and purpose of any registered U.K. or U.S. charity and we welcome the opportunity to highlight the selfless work that they do so that people can contribute to their specific needs. On the site, you can choose your preferred charity to benefit from your contributions.”
You can sponsor von Kaenel and his team at The Sea2Sea Foundation through his website at www.sea2sea.org, which acts as a portal for the fundraising.
The total miles on the U.S. leg of the Sea2Sea Challenge is 4,077. The total miles for both the U.K. and the U.S. legs are 4,248 miles.
The Journey will take 77 days and will take the riders through at least one or more major military installations (Army, Air Force, Navy or Marines).
On the website at www.sea2sea.org, you will find full details of the charities supported and the sponsors supporting the Challenge.
The day-by-day schedule of locations, times and travel routes for cyclists joining the Sea2Sea Challenge is likewise posted to The Sea2Sea Foundation website at the “Join Our Journey” tab.
Contributions can be posted in either U.S. Dollars or British Pounds Sterling. Visit www.sea2sea.org for all of the latest updates to the Blog and to each of the Social Media sites as well.
About Tom von Kaenel
Tom von Kaenel is a retired U.S. soldier who has lived in Freeland, a village in Oxfordshire, since 1998. (He is married to an English woman). He has been closely affiliated with the British Armed Forces for most of his adult life.
Von Kaenel founded Sea2Sea as a U.K./U.S. charity whose purpose is “Giving back to those who served.” The 2012 Sea2Sea cycle ride is the charity’s first challenge.
“Every day deepens my resolve to do this and make this event memorable, life-changing, positive and fun,” he said. “The purpose of this ride is to raise national and international awareness of the price paid by the service men and women who have born the cost of the conflicts since 9/11. My aim is to raise £5,000,000 for U.K. veteran-related charities and the equivalent of $10,000,000 for U.S. veteran related charities.
“This cycle ride is open to all (you can cycle 1 mile, less or the whole distance) and will demonstrate our support and appreciation for those who safeguard our freedom (as well as their families).”
On Sept. 16, 2009, von Kanel suffered a life-threatening cycling accident in the Pyrenees, which came close to ending his life and destroying his health. He was sent to the U.S. Landstuhl Regional Military Hospital in Germany and admitted into the same ward as injured duty soldiers.
“The 2-1/2 weeks that I spent there changed my life,” von Kaenel said. “I witnessed, for the first time in my life, the depth of sacrifice, devotion, and selflessness exhibited by the staff and the patients, all focused on trying to preserve the lifeblood of those men and women who were injured defending our countries and our way of life, and tragically, those who paid the ultimate price.”
He was in intensive care and isolation for a number of weeks and suffered several complications, including methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) more than once.
Having returned to the U.K. and having learnt to walk again, he suffered a second bout of MRSA, which put him back into isolation and meant he had to start all over again.
Von Kaenel is back on the road to recovery and this past summer cycled over the highest pass in the Swiss Alps.
“However, this is not the case for thousands of those who gave their lives for us, the hundreds of thousands whose lives are forever changed, as well as their families and friends,” he said. “In short, they need our help, and more importantly, we owe them a debt that we can help to repay for the sacrifices that they have made.”
Story by Patty Locher, staff writer for The Sabetha Herald