Veteran stops in Davie on awareness-raising bike ride to Alaska

Veteran stops in Davie on awareness-raising bike ride to Alaska

By Wayne K. Roustan, Sun Sentinel |6:52 p.m. EDT, March 14, 2014 | Click here for a link to the original story

Tom von Kaenel is on a 6,600-mile mission to raise awareness about the battles some veterans continue to fight after their tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He stopped for a ceremony at Davie Town Hall on Friday during his bicycle trip from his South Carolina home to Key West, where he will turn around and head for Juneau, Alaska.

The Sea2Sea 2014 Challenge is expected to take four months, but it’s not the first time von Kaenel has gone the extra mile. He rode his bike from Washington state to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia in 2011.

The retired lieutenant colonel, 58, chose this path while recovering from injuries sustained on vacation in the French Pyrenees in 2010. He was recuperating in a U.S. military hospital in Germany, where he saw many young veterans returning from the Persian Gulf.

He is also making the ride for veterans such as Janos V. Lutz, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2007 to 2009. The 24-year-old Marine took his own life when he returned home to Davie, said his mother. Janine Lutz.

Lutz cited post-traumatic stress disorder and the anti-malaria drug mefloquine, also known by its brand name Lariam, which her son had been ordered to take during and after his service, as contributing to his death. “The side effects are…paranoia, hallucinations,” she said. “My son had all of that.” Last September, the Army banned the use of the drug among special operations forces.

Lutz is working with von Kaenel to make people aware of the dangers of PTSD and some of the drugs prescribed for it. She’s also trying to launch the Buddy Up-Live To Tell program for peer support among veterans.
“When [my son] was in his darkest hour, I couldn’t help him,” she said. “But I know if I had gotten some of his battle buddies here they would have saved my son.”

wkroustan@tribune.com or 954-356-4303

Copyright © 2014 including images, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Veteran bikes Key West to Alaska The names of 345 Florida soldiers who died in Iraq & Afghanistan fill a table after each of their names were read outloud during a memorial service honoring them and also those who have committed suicide suffering from PTSD. (Taimy Alvarez / Sun Sentinel /March 14, 2014)

Veteran bikes Key West to Alaska
The names of 345 Florida soldiers who died in Iraq & Afghanistan fill a table after each of their names were read outloud during a memorial service honoring them and also those who have committed suicide suffering from PTSD. (Taimy Alvarez / Sun Sentinel /March 14, 2014)

Veteran bikes Key West to Alaska (left to right) Town of Davie Mayor Judy Paul, veteran Tom von Kaenel and others read the names of soldiers who died in Iraq & Afghanistan and those who have committed suicide because of PTSD. (Taimy Alvarez / Sun Sentinel /March 14, 2014)

Veteran bikes Key West to Alaska
(left to right) Town of Davie Mayor Judy Paul, veteran Tom von Kaenel and others read the names of soldiers who died in Iraq & Afghanistan and those who have committed suicide because of PTSD. (Taimy Alvarez / Sun Sentinel /March 14, 2014)

Veteran bikes Key West to Alaska After getting off his bike veteran Tom von Kaenel is greated by fellow veterans (left) Jack Parsons and (right) Drew Karoblis Friday in Davie. Von Kaenel is riding his bike 6600 miles from Key West to Alaska to raise awareness and support for the problems veterans face, including PTSD. (Taimy Alvarez / Sun Sentinel /March 14, 2014)

Veteran bikes Key West to Alaska
After getting off his bike veteran Tom von Kaenel is greated by fellow veterans (left) Jack Parsons and (right) Drew Karoblis Friday in Davie. Von Kaenel is riding his bike 6600 miles from Key West to Alaska to raise awareness and support for the problems veterans face, including PTSD. (Taimy Alvarez / Sun Sentinel /March 14, 2014)

Veteran bikes Key West to Alaska Daniel Iarco plays taps during a memorial service for soldiers who have committed suicide due to PTSD and soldiers who have died in from Iraq & Afghanistan. (Taimy Alvarez / Sun Sentinel /July 27, 2013)

Veteran bikes Key West to Alaska
Daniel Iarco plays taps during a memorial service for soldiers who have committed suicide due to PTSD and soldiers who have died in from Iraq & Afghanistan. (Taimy Alvarez / Sun Sentinel /July 27, 2013)

Veteran bikes Key West to Alaska Veteran Tom von Kaenel is escorted into the Town of Davie City Hall Friday afternoon during his 6600 miles from Key West to Alaska to raise awareness and support for the problems veterans face, including PTSD. He passed through Davie for a 30-minute ceremony honoring soldiers from Iraq & Afghanistan. (Taimy Alvarez / Sun Sentinel /March 14, 2014)

Veteran bikes Key West to Alaska
Veteran Tom von Kaenel is escorted into the Town of Davie City Hall Friday afternoon during his 6600 miles from Key West to Alaska to raise awareness and support for the problems veterans face, including PTSD. He passed through Davie for a 30-minute ceremony honoring soldiers from Iraq & Afghanistan. (Taimy Alvarez / Sun Sentinel /March 14, 2014)

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