In short the goal is simple – Never forget. Guest Blogger, Terry Ryan

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Last week, I was a visitor to Davie, Florida from Pennsylvania. I traveled there to visit my friend Janine Lutz, a Davie resident, and founder of the LCpl Janos V. Lutz Live To Tell Foundation. The foundation’s mission is to “Stop Veteran Suicide”, by raising awareness of Post Traumatic Stress (PTS), and promoting Post Traumatic Growth through community based services, like the newly launched “Buddy Up Program”. She has spearheaded and quickly mobilized these organizations in honor of her son, LCpl Janos V. Lutz who took his life, 12 Jan 2013, after enduring PTS upon returning from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

suiteDuring my visit, Janine told me she would be hosting a bicyclist, Tom, who was riding 6600 miles from South Carolina, to Key West, over to the Gulf Coast, and then on to Alaska for the Sea2Sea organization – “Giving Back to Those Who Served”. Wow – sounds amazing! But I didn’t know how amazing until I met Tom. He is Tom von Kaenel, retired Army veteran, cycling alone, without a support vehicle, on this self-supporting journey. But he downplays his efforts and instead asks us to focus on the two goals of the Sea2Sea 2014 Challenge:

1) To remember those who are no longer with us. It is our vision to establish a long range program to establish an Iraq/Afghanistan War Memorial in each US State listing the names of those who gave their lives for us in these conflicts, with the eventual goal of a national Iraq/Afghanistan War Memorial in Washington, DC.

In short the goal is simple – Never forget.

2) To continue to help those that they left behind. Partnering with selected 501(c)3 organizations across the country (for example, LCpl Lutz Live To Tell, Purple Heart Homes, Wounded Warrior Project, Upstate Warrior Solution, Augusta Warrior Project, JD-3), we will continue to highlight the challenges that service members, veterans, and their families face and how all of us can help.”

I had the honor to attend the Sea2Sea/LCpl Janos V Lutz Live To Tell Foundation Memorial Ceremony, hosted by the Town of Davie on Friday, March 14, 2014. Tom led a Remember, Recognize, and Rejoice ceremony during which the names of 345 Florida military service members who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, were read simultaneously by the audience. The chaos of sound reminded all of us that the conflict, the suffering, and the return is not neat and tidy, and the wars’ effects ripple far and wide.

I am most fortunate to have spent time with Tom and Janine. Their passion and dedication to honor and help heal the veteran community is inspiring, and I urge you to look at their websites (sea2sea.org, lcpllutzlivetotell.org), and consider what you can do, small or large, to get involved.

And I hope that if Tom’s route passes through your community that you welcome him and consider hosting him for an evening’s rest as he cycles from city to city/town to town on his way to Alaska. I guarantee you’ll enjoy meeting him.

Sincerely,

Terry Ryan

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.

How Do You Cram Your Worldly Possessions into Two Panniers (Saddlebags)?

Very carefully, of course.

As you may be aware (and I now know) – going on a self-supporting bicycle trip requires meticulous planning and a certain amount of ruthlessness to determine what goes in the panniers and what stays at home.

‘Must haves’ become ‘nice to haves’ in a day or so & then change into ‘THROW IT AWAY!) after a week. Jeff at Mainstreet Cycles in Clemson has a good rule of thumb, ‘Pare down everything you want to bring & lay it out before you pack it. Then throw half of it away.’

Here is the current layout for the trip (note – the cat is optional)

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Fully loaded, the two panniers weigh about 25 lbs. With me on the bike, it’s about 235 lbs.

I’ll take another photo one month into the ride to see what has been thrown away.

That’s only one aspect of the ride. The other aspect is the fit of the bike fit and the gearing ratio. That will be in a future blog.

Six Mile Resident to Embark on Ride for Veterans

Great Article about Tom’s 2nd ride for Sea2Sea in The Greenville News

Feb 24, 2014

Exerpt from the Article:
(For the full article, click here)

This trip is different from von Kaenel’s first Sea2Sea ride in 2011. This one is not about raising money. He wants to raise awareness about those who have died and about those who live with the weight of war on them. And he also wants to let people know about the organizations that help, such as Upstate Wounded Warriors or Gold Star Mothers.

“The extraordinary people are those people that have lost their loved ones in those conflicts and carry on day after day to try and live a normal life,” he says fighting tears. “The extraordinary people are the ones that come back damaged and hurt from visible and invisible wounds, and the families that are struggling to help them lead a normal life that is safeguarded by our constitution.

Six Mile Resident to Embark on Ride for Veterans

Six Mile Resident to Embark on Ride for Veterans

Prepping for the journey

Hello from the foothills at the Blue Ridge Mountains! Tom here, getting ready for the 2nd Sea2Sea journey.  I depart from Clemson, SC on Mar 1st, will bicycle down to Key West, FL, then across the US up to Washington State, through Canada, to arrive at Juneau, AK by July 4.  This will be about 6600 miles and will be self supporting (I’ll be carrying my own ‘stuff’).

It has been called ambitious & daunting, but no less so than the challenges that hundreds of thousands veterans and their families face on a daily basis.

I promise not to be so serious in the other blogs, but want to emphasize why we’re doing this again:

We have two goals:

1) To remember those who are no longer with us. It is our vision to establish a long range program to establish an Iraq/Afghanistan War Memorial in each US State listing the names of those who gave their lives for us in these conflicts, with the eventual goal of a national Iraq/Afghanistan War Memorial in Washington, DC.

We feel that it is that it is important to list the names at a memorial in each US State so that we have an enduring memorial of their sacrifice. We are starting this program in each state that we are cycling through during this trip and will continue with trips through all the States until completed.

In short the goal is simple – Never forget.

2) To continue to help those that they left behind. Partnering with selected 501(c)3 organizations across the country (for example, Purple Heart Homes, Wounded Warrior Project, Augusta Warrior Project), we will continue to highlight the challenges that service members, veterans, and their families face and how all of us can help.

The ride is different from two years ago in two respects:

1. I am currently cycling, self-supporting the entire distance alone, relying on knowledge and assistance from local communities and cycling clubs and those that wish or are able to cycle any part of the distance.

2. There is no dedicated vehicle for support or overnight accommodation – this is a self-supporting journey (I’m carrying all my stuff with me). Therefore I welcome local churches, civic halls, or families that could host me overnight as I cycle from city to city/town to town.

Also different from last time, instead of asking for corporate sponsorships and donations, we are encouraging all these kinds of donations and sponsorships be given to the local military charities (501(c)3 organizations) throughout the route.

I’ll be adding a short blog very frequently as well as Facebook & Twitter. The intent is to capture the faces and places of this great country of ours. Despite our challenges, we are blessed to here in America and to have the world’s best military defending our country.

Our challenge as citizens is to provide the military and their families with the best support during their service and when they transition back to the local communities across the US. They have raised their game to keep us safe, and now is the time to ensure that we respond in kind by raising our game to give back in the way that works best for them and the local community.

I’ll provide a route overview and how I’ve prepared for the trip in a future blog.

Til then, when you next see a veteran or his/her family, consider adding three words to the phrase that they often hear and appreciate. ‘Thank you for your service’. Those three words are: How can I thank you for your service.

Take care, be safe, God Bless,

Tom