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.

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.

In Memory of Jason S Roth

In Memory of Ride: March 1 – Clemson to Aiken
LCpl Jason S Roth – died November 18,  2013

From YouTube:

Published on Nov 19, 2013

This is a memorial video for my best friend of 5 years LCpl Jason S. Roth. He was one of the kindest, funniest, easy-going people I have ever met. He could make a room glow with his smile and turned crappy situations into funny ones. Never a dull moment. Jason took his own life after a hard struggle after his time in the Marine Corps. Please pray for his family and friends. Jay you will never be forgotten, I will think of you every day. Peace man.

Song: Miranda Lambert – Over You

 

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