These five veterans are on a mission across the U.S.
The Sedalia Democrat, Mo.
SEDALIA, Mo. — Five veterans from all walks of life are riding across the country in hopes of making a difference for the Long Road Home Project.
They rode through Sedalia on Thursday on their way to Boonville.
Founder Casey Miller, a civilian, created the project after he rode his bicycle from Portland, Ore., to Boston last year.
“After I finished it, I wanted to share the power of long-distance cycling with people. It’s very therapeutic, so the first people that came to mind were veterans,” Miller said.
The goals of the project are to give the riders the opportunity to use the road to heal, to draw attention to veteran issues and to raise money for veterans’ charities.
“Veterans come back and there’s lots of pain that they encounter from having served. That pain comes in lots of forms, so each of our riders are riding for a different reason,” said Miller.
He put out a request for riders through social media and looked for as diverse a group as possible.
“The premise, I think, is pain does not discriminate, nor should we,” he said.
The five cyclists chosen were Steve Taylor, 59, of Denver; Glenn Isaac Fretz, 41, of Oklahoma City; Ryan Creel, 31, of Pensacola, Fla.; Marie Tracy, 27, of New York City; and Colleen Bushnell, 39, of Troy, N.Y.
Taylor and Fretz are both hand cyclists who have experienced paralysis. Creel is riding for those who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. Tracy is a gay veteran who hopes to highlight the diversity of those who serve and Bushnell is riding for women in the military and is an advocate for those who have been victims of assault.
“Colleen was not a cyclist at all. She bought a bike just four weeks before,” Miller said. “She wanted to make a real change in her life and where she was. This was the perfect opportunity to do something very very different for her. We’re proud of her for that.”
The ride started in Ocean Shores, Wash., on July 15 and will end on Oct. 14 in Washington, D.C.
“Everywhere we’ve been, it’s been a blessing — one push at a time,” said Fretz who became paralyzed in 1994 after an accident. “All of us have a different agenda, but when it gets down to the nuts and bolts of it, we’re all riding for our nation, for our veterans and for our soldiers trying to make the world a better place. I’m hoping with the kids that we meet that they can see that even though all of us have challenges, we keep overcoming them and trying hard.”
Fretz said the most difficult part about riding a hand cycle is the rain. The water on the front tires splashes into his eyes and he can’t see where he is going.
“All I have is central vision in my right eye so I have no peripheral vision at all. So you’re just having faith in people and knowing they’re not going to push you off the road,” Fretz said. “I’m hoping our veterans will get hope and inspiration so we can change the cycle of every 80 minutes a veteran commits suicide.”
Miller’s goal was to raise $75,000 this year. That money will be used to cover travel expenses, make sure next year’s ride has a solid start and be given to Operation First Response. Their mission is to help veterans and their families with personal and financial needs.
Miller was happy to report that they have surpassed that goal by $7,000 so far and are only a little over half way through the ride.
People who would like to donate to this cause may do so online or may send a check made payable to the Long Road Home Project in care of the Sedalia Democrat, P.O. Box 848, Sedalia, MO 65302.
“Casey’s the angel involved in this. He put us all together. So far it’s worked out,” Fretz said. “I’m hoping that the kids when they study this project will get to know America better, get to know their veterans and know that when they sleep at night, it’s soldiers that make it to where they can wake up in a peaceful country like this.”