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.

Cross-country bike ride to highlight veterans’ needs

Link to Original Article

Cross-country bike ride to highlight veterans’ needs

By Michael EadsPosted February 28, 2014 at 9 p.m., updated February 28, 2014 at 9:10 p.m.

CLEMSON — A Six Mile native will ride his bicycle coast to coast this spring to raise awareness of veterans’ issues.

A crowd of over 100 students, veterans and well wishers gathered Friday afternoon in the Scroll of Honor Memorial across from Memorial Stadium to send off Tom von Kaenel on the Sea2Sea 2014 Challenge. Von Kaenel’s ride will take him from Key West, Fla., to Juneau, Alaska — a four-month trip covering 7,000 miles. A 2011 ride took him from Washington State to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

“From my perspective, I’ve got to do something and this is what I’m doing,” von Kaenel told the crowd.

 

Sea 2 Sea remembers fallen and living military

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The Army veteran was inspired to work on behalf of returning Iraq and Afghanistan soldiers after recuperating in a U.S. military hospital in Germany in 2010 from injuries suffered during a vacation in the French Pyrenees mountains. Once recovered, he dedicated himself to raising money and awareness for organizations that serve the needs of this newest generation of American combat veterans.

Von Kaenel also shared the story of Travelers Rest resident Jason Scott Roth, a Marine lance corporal who took his own life last fall after waiting over a year for mental health treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs. He said nearly one veteran takes his or her own life every hour on average because of being unable to get needed help and being unable to adjust to life back home.

One old friend showed up unannounced Friday to show his support for von Kaenel’s work for military veterans.

“I know Tom puts a lot of heart in it,” U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham told the crowd. “I think most of us wish we could do more. We’re all trying to figure out what we can do.”

The ceremony included the reading of over 90 names of Upstate soldiers who have died serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and a rifle salute. The names were read by cadets from the Clemson Corps, the university’s ROTC program.

Von Kaenel shared the podium with volunteers from various Upstate groups working to help local veterans transition back to civilian life, including JD-3 Veterans Organization (www.JD-3.org), Upstate Warrior Solution (www.upstatewarriorsolution.com) and Honoring Their Service, a Keowee Key effort that can be found on Facebook.

Anyone wanting to track von Kaenel’s progress or learn more about helping returning veterans should visit sea2sea.org.