Tag Archives: War Wounded

The Birth of Military to Medicine

Visit Military to Medicine’s blog site on Ning- www.militarytomedicine.org

Military to Medicine was born on a blistering evening in the barren desert lowlands that stretch between Kuwait and Iraq. The young Marine was not the first and would not be the last, but his story was symptomatic of more than a thousand shared with me in confidence during the days following the US’s initial military operations into Iraq in 2003.

He was a young Marine and this was his first experience of war. Thousands of miles away, his young wife had given birth to a new daughter whom he had never seen apart from a few photos sent in post. Unlike others in the area, he was part of a detachment in a remote landing zone that didn’t have satellite connection to the outside world, so calls were few and electronic communication nonexistent.
The Marine clasped his hands in his lap. I could see them shaking slightly out of the corner of my eye as I read the scrawled sentence on the page before me. We were sitting behind a screen in the medic’s tent. I’m not a physician, nor a psychiatrist, and though trained as a counselor, I’m a chaplain first and so I struggled with the decision that lay before me that night. “I cannot stop myself from committing harm to myself or others.” His signature followed.

The marine was one of perhaps a dozen of the most difficult situations with which I was confronted during that time in the desert. But I can say with certainty that as combat operations have progressed over the last decade, the stories and life challenges I am confronted with have only grown more abundant and more severe. I made a decision that night in the desert, a commitment to stand for those that cannot stand for themselves. And on that promise I will not waver; on that premise I founded my part in what is now called Military to Medicine.

The young marine had been exposed to the horrors of war. He shared his story with me that night, along with his fears for a new wife and child, for the tense relationship between his separated parents, a financial crisis that was only being held at bay by the fact that he was deployed . . . He bore the weight of worlds. And he was struggling to cope with it. He’d been getting in to fights with his platoon members and placed into discipline for the third time in as many weeks. He couldn’t solve the problems at home and couldn’t see his way forward, and didn’t know where to turn.

I’d been able to connect with our legal officers who were working with his wife and creditors to keep them from being evicted from their apartment. He had been activated from the individual ready reserve, and lived in southern Texas, away from any military base. One phrase he said sticks with me to this day, “I don’t see any light chaps, only darkness ahead. When I get home. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t have a job, I don’t have a way to take care of my family.” And then in a whisper, “but if I die out here at least she’ll get the insurance.”

I folded the paper in my hands, confirmed his permission one last time, and placed a hand on his shoulder for a moment before standing and walking out of the tent to the doctor and security detail waiting outside. They were going to drive him far south to the only available psychiatrist that could see him. It was the only thing I could think of at the time that might make a difference. I know better now.

Eight hours later, sleeping to troubled dreams in my tent I was awakened by a stern call from a familiar voice. “Chaplain, get up … we need you out here.” It was the Executive Officer of the unit making a personal call … never a good sign. We walked swiftly through the darkened camp, with the loud hum of generators, and the stench of burning diesel fumes. The ExO didn’t say much, only that the marine I’d seen earlier had been sent back that same evening. For a moment I thought he was furious with me for wasting the time and fuel of his drivers in making the trip. And then we walked through the flap of the tent.

He was being tended to. The cuts were everywhere, his uniform in tatters, and the medics were still trying to remove pieces of the metal wire still left in him. He’d broken down upon his return and thrown himself into the barbed concertina wire that ran along the perimeter of the camp.

Few things in life have stirred me to such fury and passion as the look in that young man’s eyes. Being a chaplain, I believe what came next was inspiration, though looking back on it I could see how I might have looked insane myself. The medics carried a satellite phone with them and I asked for it. In my civilian job I was working at the US Department of Labor, serving in an organization called the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service. I kept some of their contact information with me in a little resource book I kept with me. It was 5 pm in Texas, and a live voice picked up the phone.

I told him briefly that I was calling from a long way off, but I had a veteran with me that needed some help. He’d be coming home soon and he would be unemployed. Could he talk to him for a minute and help connect him with someone that could help. That was all the warning the veteran on the other end of the line received, and then I handed the phone over to the young marine and told him that he mattered, that there were people that cared about him, that could help him get on his feet, and that there was hope.

Military to Medicine is not a business; it is a mission that makes good business sense. I have cared and continue to care for the needs of hundreds of our military families, war-wounded veterans and their care takers. And I have found that of all the resources that I can provide, there is nothing as powerful as helping a person find a job in an environment where they can thrive in a career that they can grow to love.

Military to Medicine is not interested in creating jobs that go nowhere. We are not interested in teaching information that has no practical use in the workplace. We are about creating a healthcare workforce at the ready, and being a driving force to transform the lives of military families and in so doing to build a network of talent and training powerful enough to reshape homes and communities around the world.

I watched. I looked into the eyes of that young marine as he listened to the voice on the other end of the phone. And though he had shed not a tear as strips of twisted razors were taken from his arms and legs and side, I saw him weep for the joy that a new hope had been given back to him. But he couldn’t get it from email. He couldn’t get it from a letter or a brochure or a website. Hope is best and most effectively transacted through living beings.

We have a powerful opportunity before us. The vast majority of the world does not have the healthcare it needs to face the challenges of today, let alone those of tomorrow. In the US alone, thousands of interested students are being turned away from career training in healthcare because there are not enough to teach them. Countries around the world are being stripped of what little talent they have as nurses have become a major export to developed nations like the US. There is a vast amount of confusion among people seeking entry into entry level healthcare jobs and high failure rates because the quality of education has eroded and become disengaged from hospitals and care providers. The US healthcare system is undergoing dramatic technological change while facing a future of tightening restrictions and demands for quality results.

We believe we can make a difference, to meet the talent demands of an industry in crisis while delivering hope and returning meaning to those whose sacrifices have proven their devotion to community and to their fellow human being.

Each day I awake with a story like that of this marine, for I carry a thousand stories with me. And each day I carry visions of what could be, of how a small village in a far off place could be transformed if we could bring healing skills to many hands, and how the mother of a wounded soldier could rebuild a shattered family after two years away from home while nursing her son through a thousand surgeries.

This is why I go to work each day. I want to welcome you to our growing community. Some of you are unfamiliar with our name, but have worked with many of our staff who created the heart of Military to Medicine by delivering career assistance services as Operation Life Transformed. To OLT Alumni and friends I give my warmest welcome, as i do to our Inova Health System staff who have labored long and hard to make this dream a reality.

One thing I ask, which was asked of me when I received help from a fellow member of the military community. Join our community, provide a helping hand, (and to steal from a recent movie) “pay forward” the good that is done to you that the heart of service will beat long and strong in this land and this world that we love.

Very Respectfully,
Daniel Nichols

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Operation Life Transformed Name Changing to Military to Medicine

Please visit:  www.militarytomedicine.org 

Operation Life Transformed (OLT) has joined forces with Inova Health System to form Military to Medicine, a program that provides online healthcare training and employment opportunities for military spouses, wounded warriors and their caregivers, Veterans, National Guard, Reserve and their spouses, and service members transitioning to civilian employment.

OLT has been working cooperatively on the pilot Military to Medicine program since February 2009. Our two organizations share a similar military family mission and found that working together the training and outreach opportunities were strengthened and military families were better served. Today, Military to Medicine provides  healthcare training and placement opportunities in portable healthcare careers that readily “fit” the military lifestyle.

Military to Medicine has seen tremendous growth and support from the military community including the Department of Defense, The Department of Labor and the U.S. Army and the Army Spouse Employment Partnership. It also has received support from other healthcare systems including the Cleveland Clinic, Sharp Healthcare, Wellstar Healthcare and the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Veterans’ Health Administration. As a not for profit organization, Military to Medicine has gained support from philanthropic entities like Cisco Systems Foundation, Elks Lodge, the Dallas and San Antonio TRIAD, and the Claude Moore Foundation.

Operation Life Transformed would like to thank you for your support in the past and we look forward to serving our military family communities under the new name Military to Medicine.

Please check out our new Web site at www.militarytomedicine.org and be sure to join our social networking site that is linked there, too. We look forward to hearing from you!

  Sincerely,

 The Military to Medicine Team

www.militarytomedicine.org

 info@militarytomedicine.org

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Jeannie’s arrival into 7th State – Michigan –

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America By Bicycle Group - Courtesy of http://www.bamacyclist.com/Journal2009/North09/p33.htm

Hello everybody out there!  Today is a lovely Tuesday, July 28, Day 37 out of our 50 days.  We rode from Ludington to Mt. Pleasant today, which was 113 miles.  I’m very happy to say we had kind of humid weather but good weather.  It was warm but it wasn’t outrageous, in the 70s and 80s as we were riding.  We had some nice tailwinds.  We had some half smooth and half bumpy roads, but not bad.  We had a few headwinds, but they were on the crossover roads, so that wasn’t too bad.  I had a nice early start today.  I was in the first grouping of the riders and rode with a man named Bill from Illinois and Ken, who is one of the newer riders who is only on a two-week portion of this trip.  We stuck together the whole 113 miles and we had a lot of fun.  We pushed each other and did really well.  We were able to ride really strong today, I’m happy to say.

Just to give you a few highlights that were fun and for me to remember, our first SAG stop was at 28 miles on a dirt lot.  It was my least favorite SAG stop of the whole entire trip.  It had a lot of black flies and gnats surrounding us, and I didn’t stay there long, I hurried up and got done and got out of there.  I started off out of the SAG a little bit more tired than usual and kind of gained as I went through.  We got to the second SAG stop, which was at 64 miles, and that was a good stop.  I was able to use the restroom there and get some good drinks and get kind of reenergized. 

lemonade

Photo taken outside of Reinlander, WI - Courtesy of http://www.leptonic.com/skip/Grabaawr/Grabaawr.html

Just as we left that stop, we went past a little lemonade stand with Joey and his sister, who I got a picture of.  The mother was there, kind of in the doorway watching out for the kids, giving everybody their drinks.  We stopped to get some Kool-Aid lemonade from them, which was really fun, they were really happy.  I can remember my kids doing lemonade stands at Cape Cod and people stopping and how exciting it was.  But our lemonade was the real lemonade, we used to do the water with the squeezed lemons with a little bit of sugar in it, not like the way we did it for the beach.  We used to just squeeze lemon in our water, which is my famous lemon water with no sugar.  My kids got used to that and loved it every summer, it was their favorite drink, very refreshing.  We used to put it in this one jug and that was the only thing I put in that jug.  It was like years and years and years of just lemon water in that jug, and there was something magical about that lemon water when we’d drink it at the beach.  I still have it, and we still do it.  But it was fun to stop.  I always try to stop at lemonade stands, that’s one of the things you just got to do in life, got to stop at the lemonade stands.  That was really fun. 

We had some nice rolling acres from the second stop to the third SAG stop, which was at 82 miles.  Some of the jokes and the funny things that happened, every time we’d see a hill up ahead or something that looked like we had to climb, I would say that it’s a piece of cake, Ken would say that it’s a piece of pie, and Bill would say it’s la-la.  The la-la trip!  So we would approach a hill and I’d say, “Piece of cake, piece of cake.”  And we’d get into the la-la and the piece of pie and we would just climb up as fast as we could, go-go-go-go-go, and pretend like we were on our horses, “Come on, yee haw, get going and get up that hill!”  We just pushed ourselves every hill so we could just get up and go.  As my daughter gave me my own wise advice and reminded me, it’s not getting to the top, it’s getting to the other side and moving forward, that’s what we have to do in life a lot.  We never really get to the top, because if you get to the top, where do you go from there?  My attitude, I taught her this, and taking my own advice, when you see that big hill, whether it looks looming, difficult, way too hard, you just got to say, all I have to do is get to the other side and keep moving forward.  That’s a lot of life. 

The other thing too, as we went through these towns that were really funny, everything said “big.”  Big Jackson, Big Jackson Church.  I saw some nice Scripture quotes out on the signs for the churches in the Big Jackson area.  But it was Big Red City and big everything!  Bill made a comment that made me crack up, and I laughed through the whole trip when he said, “Yeah, but you know, the cattails out here just aren’t that big in Michigan!”  And for some reason that just cracked me up, the cattails weren’t that big out here in Michigan.  I had a lot of fun with that one. 

The other thing that I was thinking of, how I’m in the state of Michigan, and Joshua, this one’s for you, honey, my son Josh, my third child out of four.  Joshua always wore a yellow Michigan hat for a long, long time.  And it tattered and tore and he’d still wear that Michigan hat.  I have a painting that I had done for him on his confirmation day of Joshua with his back, on bended knee, sneakers on the side with his yellow Michigan hat that he always wore, looking over a chasm out to a cross up on a hill.  It was a vision I had that I had a friend paint.  Jack Alexis painted it for me.  I can’t remember the exact Scripture, but it was from Joshua about the commander said, “Fall on your knees, Joshua, you’re on holy ground.”  That’s a real significant painting.  Josh, I was thinking of you because of the state of Michigan and your hat, and just thinking, I’m in the state of Michigan, here I am, riding across America. 

Another thing that was really important today, while I was riding along, about two-thirds through my ride today, for a long time I’ve been looking, looking as I’ve gone by all these John Deere dealerships and all these John Deere tractors that I’ve seen out on the farms, either with nobody in them or working the fields.  But I’ve been looking to see when there would be an opportunity that I could see a tractor that the owner was around so that I could get on the tractor and get a picture of the tractor.  And it happened today!  There was this beautiful stone farmhouse with their barn in the back and the John Deere tractor was sitting right out in the front lawn.  I saw the man outside and I said, “Do you mind if I stop and get a picture with your tractor?”  And the man said, “Sure, go ahead.”  So I stopped and I got a picture of me on the John Deere tractor today!  So Mom, that one’s for you, and Sue and Danny, that one’s for you, and all my thanks and gratefulness to Mom, how you took care of us by working for John Deere, and Susie and Danny, all of you, how you retired from John Deere.  Just my life has been blessed by the John Deere company, being able to be a child of someone who worked there.  I’m just really grateful for that.  So I got that picture today, that was really special.  I got a card from my mom yesterday that I actually read this morning, thanks, Mom, that was really sweet.  It was just really great that you thought of me and sent that out, I appreciate it. 

Love to all of my kids and Raymond and the Coffey family and all of you out there.  It really was a day that I had to work for the mileage, but got it done, it was really good, got in safely.  Everything’s still going great with my bike, I just really thank the Lord.  I thank all of you.

It was really pretty cool as we came into Mt. Pleasant, we got onto Broadway, which is kind of like their main street with lots of little shops.  There was a bunch of us that stopped off at this one little restaurant café where you could sit outside, I got a sandwich and an ice cream and we just had a good time having some lunch together.  Even at that we still got in at around 2 o’clock today, and the lunch was for an hour.  I had a really strong ride today, riding more around 28 mph on average.  My legs are definitely getting stronger and we don’t have to do as many climbs.  But as I say, sometimes we have to get into the three Gs, which is the granny grind gear, pulling the triple Gs.  That’s one of our expressions.  I’ll give you another one tomorrow, I can’t think of it right now. 

I’m having lots of fun with the people out here, moving along in Michigan.  Happy trails to all of you.  Tomorrow I’m not sure where we’re going, I haven’t been to rap yet.  I’ll find out exactly where we’re going and how many miles it is.  It’s somewhere in the 80s, I think, and we’re supposed to have a tailwind tomorrow, which would be really sweet if we did.  I hope we do.  God bless you all.  Thank you so much for all your love and your following.  I just hope that we all have a safe and good day tomorrow.  God bless you and God bless America.

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Jeannie Takes a Day Off With Friends: Home Is Where The Heart Is

Hello everyone! I know that I didn’t call in yesterday, which is the first time I think I’ve ever done that. It wasn’t because it was a bad day, it’s just that at the end of the day, I can tell you what happened. It was Day 35 yesterday, July 26. We only had to go 57 miles, from Fond du Lac to Manitowoc, WI. I was asked to load the truck last so that my luggage would be able to come out first because I was expecting to get into Manitowoc by around 12, earlier than most people, and also I was expecting to be able to get my luggage off the truck earlier than most people, which I had worked out with our leadership people with America By Bicycle. This was because I was meeting my good friends Madonna and Harry Sydney, for them to take me to their house. As you can tell, that’s a lot of should’ve, could’ve, would’ve! But it didn’t turn out that way. I did load last. My little cage for my water bottle was loose, so that had to be tightened, so that made me leave any a little bit later. Once I got going, it was a nice start, beautiful out. I started realizing I was riding really strong, I just kind of pulled out and was riding by myself and doing really great. I was riding along at a great pace with some friends on the team, but I could tell that my tires were low on air. So the first time I saw one of our vans on the side, I stopped and filled my tires with air. That always loses momentum a little, but I needed to do it because my ride wasn’t smooth without my tires at the right PSI. So I got those filled and got going on my way and caught up to them and kind of passed them and went on. I did a lot of passing of people and stopping, passing people and stopping, that’s how my day turned out. Because when I got going again, we had some headwinds, which were a little bit difficult for a good half of the say, some real strong headwinds, in fact. It made the ride a little longer and a little bit more difficult than what any of us expected. But also my tire just wasn’t feeling right in the back. So I stopped again to see what it might be. Barbara couldn’t really see anything that was wrong. She kind of pulled my brake pads out a little bit and said that maybe my back tire was not completely true as far as being round, maybe that’s what it was. So I got on my bike since there didn’t seem to be anything major wrong, but it still just kept feeling like my back tire was just off, I can’t describe it. So I still was riding really strong and riding really fast and caught up to other people again and passed them and kept going again. Again, I hit headwinds, so it took longer. I was kind of riding with some people, and just before we got to the SAG stop I was following some really wonderful people, Wayne and Kathy, and they kind of went off the wrong way, which I didn’t notice. We only went two miles out of our way, but still we did go out of our way. I got to the SAG stop, which was only at the 30-mile mark, so I figured, okay, only 27 more miles to go, that’s not bad. Once I got going from the SAG stop, there was a section I was going through towards the end and I hit a huge downpour of rain for about 10 or 15 minutes. That doesn’t sound very long, but it was just a huge downpour. Of course I had to stop and put on my rain jacket, even though it really didn’t help too much. I rode really slow, and as I came in it started to clear up. So needless to say, the 57 miles turned out to be a long ride for me yesterday, so my friends had to wait a while for me. When I got in, because I was soaked, I decided since by then the truck was already there, I could already go into my room, I didn’t get there early at all. I showered really quickly and off we went. I took a bag that I could sort through my stuff. We have what we called our pink ribbon bag, which is a bag that we put in the truck for eight to nine days and don’t get again until a rest day. It’s stuff that we kind of need, like maybe extra vitamins, things like that. So I got my bags and off we went to Madonna and Harry’s place, and I had a fabulous time. They had a cookout for me, we talked about the trip, we talked about what they’ve been doing. I got to see their kids, and Madonna’s parents, which was really, really great. I didn’t get to see Doug, I missed seeing Doug but he wasn’t available. It was just a great visit, great to see everybody. She helped me get my laundry done, she actually trimmed my hair, because she’s also a beautician, and we also went to Coldstone Creamery and got some lovely ice cream, which I love! I sorted through all my luggage and pulled out stuff that I really don’t need anymore so Madonna could ship it back for me, which was great, that was a big help. Thank you all so much for everything you did for me, I can’t thank you enough. It was so great to have a touch of home life, being in a house in a neighborhood with family whom I’ve vacationed with a lot in the past. It was great to see all you kids who have grown so much, so great to hear how well you’re all doing, it was just really, really special. I didn’t get back to my hotel until about 12:30 and got to bed. Then I got up this morning, had a nice breakfast and prepared to get ready to go from Manitowoc to Luddington, MI across Lake Michigan on the S. S. Badger. We had to all get together over by the ferry by noon. Since this was a rest day, I really try on a rest day to get a massage, which this morning I did have one, which is really helpful for me. I was really glad I was able to fit that in. We only had to cycle for about three miles to get over to the S.S. Badger and put all of our bikes on the boat. It was really big and really fun. We were on it for four hours. We changed time zones, so I’m now on East Coast time zone, which is really cool. There were choices of games and choices of a movie. I had got my iPod from my girls and boys who made a shuffle music selection for me, which I absolutely love, so I got to listen to my music. Thank you, kids! I was able to talk to different friends on the team who were on the ship. I actually met a couple who are riding across America as a tandem. They were wonderful to meet. A funny little story, which I won’t get into the details, just for me to remember and for the fun of it, he had a hole in the back of his pants. I’m just going to leave it at that, a funny little story about that. I hope they have a good rest of their trip across America. They’re heading over to New Hampshire as well and up into Maine. They were really interesting people, and they’re all self-supported, so their tandem bike was really amazingly packed. For them to be doing that is just awesome. When we got off, we stopped off at these little places along the way, a bunch of us got sandwiches and salad and had some dinner. I just got into the motel here and we’re looking forward to our day tomorrow. We have a 113 miles to go tomorrow on Day 37, Tuesday, July 28, going from Luddington to Mt. Pleasant, MI. Now I’ve noticed when I think a day is going to difficult with mileage, I’m usually wrong. When I think a day is going to be easy with mileage, I’m usually wrong. So I’ve decided to not even say what I think! I just hope the day will go well. I hope we don’t have any downpours of rain, hope that we’re all safe as we get in. I just hope that I can ride well and enjoy all the blessings that there are on this ride. Now that it’s really getting down to only 14 days left until we’ll be in Portsmouth, NH, that just doesn’t sound like very long and I’m already getting sad that this will be over before I know it. So I’m just going to relish and take in each day, the blessing that it is. The people who are on this ride are just wonderful, I really love talking with every one of them whenever we have a chance to talk. It’s a great team of people, great staff, just an amazing experience. So far I’m just really thankful that I’m still really healthy and things are going well. I actually ordered a long-sleeve shirt that’s supposed to be sort of a sunscreen shirt that has sailboats and an ocean design on it, which I really love. It just came in today and so I’ll be able to start wearing that. I got some new navy blue shorts, so hopefully they’ll be comfortable too, I’m going to try them out tomorrow on my ride. Hopefully I can get less sun on my arms, because I’m definitely getting a lot of sun. I’ve been putting on 50 block, but I definitely have a lot of sun on me. I want to try to keep that down a little bit, so hopefully the shirt will help. I hope you’re all doing well out there. I can’t believe July is almost over, we still have the month of August, so that’s all good. Blessings to all of you out there, hope everyone is fine. Thank you, Jay Vance, for taking care of all this for me. Hello to OLT and hope things are going well with people pledging and following me online. Thank you everyone, I have read some of your messages and it’s just encouraging to see you be so encouraging to me. Thank you for all of you really believing in me and being so prayerful for me. I have been safe and I’m very grateful for my health and my strength and my ability to do this. I look forward to tomorrow. This has been a great little reprieve, to be with my friends, and also to go on the S.S. Badger, it was great to go on a ferry. I love going on boats, I love the water, love being out in that wind and fresh air. It’s one of the things I like about cycling, but I love boating. It’s just a real treat to be where I am and doing what I’m doing. God bless all of you, and God bless America. We do have a beautiful America. Men and women out there who are fighting for us and sacrificing your lives, we all just say God bless you and thank you so much. Families, just hang in there and keep doing what you’re doing. Thank you for all that you do to sacrifice for us.

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Imprisoned In Body, But Not In Spirit……

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Hello everyone!  It is Saturday, July 25, Day 34, I can’t believe it.  We traveled from Wisconsin Dells to Fond du Lac, WI.  I guess that means “the foot of the lake.”  It was truly a beautiful ride today.  We had our breakfast at 6, loaded by 6:45 and got on the road.  I got on the road fairly early this morning, I was really ready to go.  I knew that we had 83 miles, and from all the other mileage I just kind of wanted to give myself enough time to not get in too late today.  I thought I’d ride a little slower today, just because I was really kind of tiring out.  But to my great surprise, I really didn’t ride slow today at all.  I had a really great ride, I had great strength.  We did have some tailwind today, which was really helpful, and we had rolling acres of mileage and it was really, really beautiful.  The sun was out, it was really a perfect weather day, and we didn’t have any difficult climbs today.  The 83 miles turned out to be a really nice 83 miles to travel.  It was really fun.

One of the things I was thinking as I was rolling out this morning, just down the road, kind of starting off.  We all kind of start off and I really just love to start off with people and kind of see if we can ride the same pace and talk a little while and have a good morning out.  I was really struck by something that might sound kind of strange to say, but it’s what I was thinking.  I was thinking that on this ride, it’s kind of turned out to be like I feel like I’m kind of imprisoned, if I could put it that way.  I’m imprisoned by the way that my body operates, and I really can’t change the way my body operates as a bike rider, as a cyclist.  In other words, sometimes I’d really like to go slower so that I could visit with some of the people who ride a little bit slower.  And sometimes I wish I could just ride faster so that I could ride with some of the people who ride faster.  But I find that on any given day when I get out, I never know how I’m really going to ride, how my body’s going to feel once I get going, and a person really has to pace themselves at what they’re able to do for that day, or what they normally do.  If it’s kind of what your body needs to do to go faster, you need to just go faster.  So you can’t really pick and choose like I thought, talking to people and/or being with people that you want to.  I like everybody on the team for this ride of America By Bicycle, but it’s just kind of nice if you haven’t seen certain people, you might want to ride with them because you just haven’t seen them or talked to them much in a while.  It just doesn’t work out that way.  You have to kind of do what your body is telling you to do.  Sometimes it means that I’m riding alone.  I always like who I’m riding with, it’s not that I feel like I’m stuck with anybody that I’m riding with.  But I guess what I’m trying to say is that sometimes I feel badly that I just have to ride the way my body wants me to ride.  Because if I ride too slow when my muscles kind of want me to go faster, it makes my muscles more tired to not go fast, if that makes any sense. 

So it made me think today about that’s how I feel with my body, here I am being a cyclist and having a great adventure of being strong enough to be able to ride my bike across America, which is a real privilege and really special and a dream come true for me.  But it did make me think about people who are in wheelchairs or are handicapped or imprisoned in their body in some way when they wish that they could be freer, or wishing they could do something they just can’t seem to achieve because of where they’re at in life or what is going on with their body that there’s really nothing they can do about.  It’s just something they have to live with or it has to be.  I just want to say I was thinking about you, whoever you might be out there, whether you’ve been wounded as a soldier for our country and what you’ve done for us, God bless you.  Whether you’ve had an illness or an accident or something that has really changed your life where you just have to do what you have to do or you can’t do what you want to do because of your limitations or because of who you are.  I guess what I realized today is, whether I like it or not, and there are a lot of things that I am thankful for for who I am, there are still things I don’t like about who I am and about what some of my limitations are, whether they’re physical, emotional, intellectual or spiritual.  I have limitations too, and I have real flat spots to my life.  It’s encumbering and it’s disappointing and it can be very, very discouraging.  But the interesting thing about riding mileage on a bike that I can relate so many things to is that one thing can be happening at one point, or I could be possibly riding alone because I needed to ride faster than the people I was riding with in the beginning that I’d like to stay with, but my body just wanted me to go faster, so I needed to just kind of do it and end up having to pull out and not be with them.  Or I might not be able to ride with some other people who can go so much faster that I can’t even ride with them ever.  But the truth of it is, it changes up.  As I was just riding along, I ended up meeting up with some other people down the way who I was able to ride with, and before you know it, it’s enjoyable and all of a sudden I found that I just had energy to really roll.  Some of the country roads, just out there like riding with the wind, like being on a horse.  My legs would just go and I could just fly and I could just ride and it was just such a freedom.  Just up and down those hills with no effort and everything’s just kind of going like a locomotion, it’s just a well-oiled machine, so to speak.  It’s thrilling to be in the fresh air and it’s thrilling to be out on those country roads with the freedom of no traffic and seeing the horses on the side and the beautiful cornfields still, and all the life that’s out there, and just going.  It’s like that’s how life is sometimes, it’s just going so well, it’s going so perfectly.  Then we tire and have to stop and we have to refuel and get food.  It’s just such an example, I guess, of how life is for us on this journey.   I’ve just been thinking about a lot of different things.   Now that a lot of my fears are gone, with kind of the way the roads are with the huge mountains and the really narrow shoulders, which there are some, but not as often as before, it gives a lot more time to reflect and just enjoy different things.  I guess it’s made me think a lot more of different analogies of things in life. 

When I got in to Fond du Lac, I ended up being with one of my teammates, Ken, and we were really, really hungry, so we went around the side of where the park was around here, and over to the side there was a kind of a seafood restaurant where we could sit outside.  We ended up grabbing a crab croissant, which was really good, enjoying that and just kind of talking about the bike ride and the day and the fun that it is to be a cyclist, just fun things about the areas we go to.  We got back in and there were four of us that went over to the 4 o’clock Sacred Heart Catholic Church that’s nearby here.  I wanted to make sure to go to church because tonight being Saturday night, tomorrow’s Sunday, I’d usually go to church on Sunday morning at a Protestant church, but I also have Catholic upbringing and I also love going to Roman Catholic church sometimes too.  We had a cab ride over and we went to the Sacred Heart Church, and it was a real blessing to hear the singing and the message.  The message was for us to take what we’ve been given and use what we have to glorify God and bless others, that that’s what we offer up to God.  He tied in with different Scripture, and it was just a real reminder and really appropriate.  When I put the money in the basket, I also put an OLT card in the basket, because I feel that my riding for Operation Life Transformed and for all of you military families out there, it’s what I’m offering up to God for you and for our country.  I hope that the priest will take a look at it and share it within the congregation.  I did talk to him after church to let him know that I did put it in with my money that I offered.  So that is our offering.

I know all of you have a lot to offer, all of you as family and friends and loved ones and people out there who are in our military.  As long as we all just do our part and share what we have to offer, the Lord is smiling, He’s pleased, He really doesn’t want any more or any less from us than who we are.  It was a reminder for me on my day as I thought about that kind of imprisonment to what my body can offer.  It might be more to offer than what some people can, but it’s a lot less than other people can too.  Like I could never do a marathon, I could never run 26 miles.  My knees, my body just really can’t do running.  I can do cycling but I couldn’t do running.  I could never do an Iron Man, I know people who do Iron Man and it’s amazing.  It’s amazing to me that I’m able to ride across America, I’m thrilled and I’m privileged and honored, but at the same time it’s very humbling, because there are always people in the Olympics and people who do all kinds of amazing things that I couldn’t even imagine being able to do.  Some of you out there are doing amazing things too in going to Iraq and Afghanistan and all these different places and fighting for our country.  Other people out there are doing different jobs that I couldn’t even imagine being able to have the intellect to be able to do.  We all do our part, God creates us in a special way, He gives us all gifts and He doesn’t leave any of us out.  I just want to say that He blesses all of us with something, and as long as we all just keep doing our part, that’s what it’s all about.

I just want to say that I am thrilled about tomorrow, tomorrow is a very special day because not only is it Day 35, but it’s also a day from Fond du Lac to Manitowoc, WI where some very special friends of mine, Madonna and Harry and children and also Doug and Sandy, also some very special friends of mine, along with different family members of theirs are going to pick me, because they live in Green Bay, only half an hour away.  I only have a short 57-mile ride tomorrow, so they’re going to pick me up in the early afternoon and whisk me away to Green Bay and host a barbecue for me in Green Bay.  I can be with family members of theirs, which I have vacationed with them in the past, and they’re very dear friends to me.  I’ll be able to hang out with them and just have a special time with them.  I can stay into the evening, because the next day is the day that we take a ferry across the waters and we don’t have to ride that day, we just have to ride three miles to get to the ferry.  We’ll have the ferry ride and the whole rest of the day off.  So it will be considered a rest day, so I don’t have to worry about staying up late.  I’m very much looking forward to that and it will be really, really special. 

I love you all, hope that you’re enjoying your summer and finding the gifts and talents that you have as you offer those up to give them to God and to your friends and your loved ones around you and doing your part.  Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

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Send your pledges in for Jeannie’s Cause- not much time left- She is getting tired, they hit rain and mud today- 3 Tunnels – Please show her you appreciate what she is doing for our military families!

Hello everyone! It’s Friday, July 24, Day 33.

We traveled with our jerseys on from Lacrosse to Wisconsin Dells, WI. We knew today that we would be riding through the tunnels, so we were all kind of looking forward to seeing what that would be like and what the diversity of the day would be. All I can say is that today was a rather interesting day, in many, many ways, as you’ll see. We started off with a pretty decent morning, good weather, a very nice breakfast at our hotel at 6:30, eggs with cheese, hash brown potatoes with peppers and onions, which was a real treat for me, I love that, lots of fruit and muffins and lots of good choices, oatmeal and bacon and all that other kind of stuff that I don’t eat. Everything went pretty well, I was really strong, climbing really well, moving along, kind of riding by and talking to different people as I rode along and moving on ahead. We got to our first SAG stop at 27 miles, in Sparta, the bicycle capitol of the world. There’s a really cool statue of this great big huge man on a bicycle. It’s really kind of funny because they named him Ben Bikin, and he says on his little machine when you go by the statue, “Hello, I’m Ben Bikin!” He talks about the history of the Sparta area, which is really pretty funny. I got a few pictures of that and went over to where our SAG stop was. They actually had another bike that I got up on top of and got a picture. Funny thing is, other people had gotten on the bike and we got pictures, but when I got up on the bike, a policeman came by and told me to get down and told us that we couldn’t go up on the bike anymore. So I was the last one to be able to get up on the bike. But wouldn’t you know the police would come by when I got up there! We all thought that was pretty funny. I can never get away with anything, that’s kind of been the story of my life. It’s kind of a joke, and I thought it was pretty funny, actually. After we had our little SAG time there, we got onto the Sparta to Elroy portion of the trail, and the trail was a compacted dirt trail. We went along on our thin tires and I was pretty surprised it went along as well as it did.

Tunnel- from bamacycles.com

Tunnel- from bamacycles.com

We all got to our first tunnel and thought it was really exciting. We got pictures and really thought it was awesome. You have to walk your bikes through with flashlights and we were all pretty much in a big group walking our bikes with the flashlights. It was kind of drippy and wet and we just had to be careful as we walked along. But because it was the first one, it was pretty exciting. When we came out from that tunnel, it started to rain. That wasn’t really too bothersome, because we had already had our little rain jackets on from going through the tunnel, and that didn’t really seem all that bad, the rain was kind of warm. We traveled along and started to ride a little bit more, and the rain got a little bit heavier until we started to get very wet. We got to this area called Wilton on the trail, and we got off and went to Pies Are Square. They had so many people to serve, there were so many locals there as well as a bunch of us from America By Bicycle, so it was actually a longer stop than planned. I got a sandwich and some soup and a piece of blackberry pie, which was absolutely delicious. The group I was with got served last and we were sort of the last to leave that area, which at first didn’t seem so bad. We were at 61 miles at that point and knew that we just had about another 30 miles, that didn’t seem so bad. However, once we got going, it was very wet. We had gotten wet already and were a little bit chilled, but it seemed like it was starting to clear up a little bit. We started traveling along on the trail, but the trail was pretty wet by then and it wasn’t quite as easy to ride on it as it was before, even though it wasn’t too bad, there was often a canopy of trees and what not. But throughout that ride for some mileage there, we kind of started hitting some headwinds, and my lunch really didn’t do me much good for energy, I noticed. From the 61 to about the 70-mile mark, I started to get really, really tired. From 70 to 91 miles, it really seemed like a really long 20 miles. We had gone through our second tunnel, and by the time we got to the third tunnel, there weren’t many people going through it and it was really kind of like, okay, let’s just get through this! The ride was starting to have some up and down climbs to it, not big climbs, but just on the trail. From our second SAG stop on it was just really a long ride. Our bikes were all dirty, we were dirty, and the bikes weren’t really riding as well. To make a long story short, I was getting really tired and we were hitting headwinds. But the thing that really saved me is I was with Ken and another man named Tom; Ken is the new rider with the group and Tom is someone who usually rides with another gentleman named Ken, but he wasn’t riding with that Ken at this point. So the three of us were kind of moving along and we hit a construction area that was really, really crazy.

Pic from bamacycle.com

Pic from bamacycle.com

We had to walk through a ton of mud and kind of down into a hole and carry our bikes across a plank, and our shoes just got totally muddy and grubby after that, which we were so filthy to begin with. We had to clean off our shoes and scrape them out so we could use our pedal clips on our bikes. That took quite a bit of time, and it sort of started raining and sprinkling on and off, and more headwinds as we traveled along. It just really became a very long ride at the end. About the last 10 miles I realized I was really dogging it. So I ate a trusty chocolate bar with almonds and said to Ken and Tom, “You know what, I’m going to really need to start pushing it because it’s feeling like I’m going to be out here all day.” So I started gearing up, kind of pushed myself and started talking to myself to get myself going, get myself in gear and really started going up and down these rolling roads as fast as I could. I pushed it up to like 22 to 25 mph and the last six or seven miles we just zipped in. I pushed it for all I had, gave it everything I could, and just wanted to get myself and my bike in and get off my bike. So that’s exactly what we did, just got in, and once we got into the motel, everybody was outside cleaning their bikes off. It took a long time for us to all get our bikes cleaned off, our shoes cleaned off, had to re-lube our chains.

Bike Wash-from bamacycle.com

Bike Wash-from bamacycle.com

They had to adjust our rap time to be a little bit later and our dinner time a little bit later. So that’s what we did, cleaned up bikes, got back into our rooms and cleaned up to go to rap time to find out that tomorrow we have an 83-mile day that will take us from Wisconsin Dells to Fond du Lac, WI. Hopefully it will be a good day, we’ll have to see what happens. Needless to say, today was kind of the trail, the terrain, the rain, the mud we had to go through and climbing up and down rolling hills that were actually quite a bit of work after we were so tired and our bikes were kind of sluggish. After the other days of all the mileage, it was really a long day and I’m really glad that it’s over. We haven’t really been able to enjoy what Wisconsin Dells has to offer. I hear there are a lot of fun waterslides and a lot of fun things here, but it’s 9 o’clock at night right now and I just finished dinner a little while ago. I’m really tired and I’m just going to take it easy and try to get to bed early tonight. So onward bound. I just want to say thank you to everybody again. For these last few days I really haven’t been responding to anybody for all of your encouragement and all the great things that you all are doing for me. I really do appreciate it. I’m just really kind of trying to survive through these days right now, because they’re hard and they’re long. I’m keeping my positive attitude up, but it really is difficult. That’s just kind of where I’m at. I’m thankful for the ride, we’re really doing well, everybody’s safe, that’s the important thing. Mentally I can say it’s a little bit harder than it was before. I’m looking forward to getting to our next destination tomorrow. I met a few people today, K.C. who was a waitress, and a young boy who worked at Pies Are Square. I just want to thank them, they were really sweet. They worked really hard today to serve us our lunches. When 50 or more of us come in, it’s pretty overwhelming for them, especially when they have other customers. They did a great job. God bless all of you, I love you out there. God bless America with all these little towns and these cute little places where everybody lives between Wilton and Kendall and Elroy, all these little places. They’re parts of America that I would never have seen otherwise, trails that are actually really pretty with the canopy of trees. It’s really interesting to see this part of the world, even though at times I’m really tired and at times I get really tired of being on my bike. Altogether it’s still a great blessing and I’m really grateful. So God bless all of you and I’ll talk to you again tomorrow.

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Jeannie says-Leaving Minnesota today was absolutely breathtaking. The rolling acres of farmland with the corn fields,fly fisherman at a waterfall- off to Wisconsin Dells with lots of tunnels.

Hello everyone out there!

It’s Thursday, July 23, Day 32, traveling from Rochester, MN to Lacrosse, WI. We crossed from Minnesota into Wisconsin today.

I have to say, I really thought today was rather daunting, looking at it last night. But I am very, very thrilled to tell you that today turned out a zillion times better than I expected. There were a lot of turns, there was a lot of checking the maps, and the first 34 miles to the first SAG was kind of slow for me. I didn’t really feel my best, but I was trucking along and making it. But from the SAG stop, I just picked up some real good energy. What was interesting at the SAG stop, there was a fly fisherman there at a waterfall, and I got a picture of him. Being by the waterfall at the SAG stop, plus the food I ate and somehow I just picked up the morning warm-up, also I put some more air in my tires because my bike felt a little sluggish as well as I do. With everything combined, once we left the SAG stop we had some rolling, beautiful acreage to ride on, and we were on a beautiful, beautiful bike path for about 12 or 15 miles. That was so refreshing, it was gorgeous. Leaving Minnesota today was absolutely breathtaking.

rolling hills of corn- Pic from bamacycle.com

rolling hills of corn- Pic from bamacycle.com

The rolling acres of farmland with the corn fields, not just typical flat out there cornfields, but rolling acres of cornfields with areas of grass or whatever it is, it’s green, and then golden wheat or whatever it was, it just made a gorgeous patchwork pattern in the landscape. Today was another gorgeous, beautiful, sunny day with some clouds in the sky, a breeze to the air, and it was absolutely breathtaking, it just took me by surprise today after the first 34 miles, how gorgeous the rest of the ride was. When we got to the bike path, it was so refreshing, it was a beautiful bike path. I tend not to like bike paths with road bikes because they’re winding and there’s a lot of debris and you have to be careful with turns and there are a lot of people on them. I really wasn’t thinking the bike path would be all that great, but it was beautiful. It was wide enough, it was plenty clean enough, had little bridges that were easy to go over, there were basically hardly any people on it. Canopies of trees, I’ve never seen anything like it. Off to the right and left of the bike path there were literal cornfield crops that were right there as you were going through the bike path. Of course there was the river, which was beautiful, so it was very refreshing for those 15 miles. We ended up at a SAG where there was a great little country store with some really healthy food, some great pastries. It was a fun stop. I actually got some cream and soap there that they make homemade in that area. We knew that we had a little bit of mileage before we were going to hit a major climb. They told us we would have a climb at the end of the day, and that’s what I was kind of dreading. I’m happy to say I did the climb really well. At the end of the climb, about a mile climb with about 10 or 12 degree grade, very difficult, I got to the top and I actually held my bike up with the cornfields in the background. It was just a real victory for me. I just really appreciate your prayers out there, I just appreciate that today the roads were fairly smooth and it was just a good ride. After leaving that climb, the rest of the trip just was awesome for me, because I knew we only had about another 22 miles. It was really, really pretty and we had some beautiful descents, going 37 or 38 mph on smooth road with no traffic, it was really a treat. I can’t thank you all enough for your prayers, I really appreciate it. Everyone came in safe, we all had a good time. We entered Wisconsin toward the end, went over the bridge over the Mississippi River, which was really beautiful, fun to do. Tomorrow we have another 91 miles to go from Lacrosse to Wisconsin Dells. The good thing about this is that there are three mountain passes that we don’t have to climb, we’re actually going to be going through tunnels. This will be a new experience for me. We have to have our flashlights and be careful with our shoes. I’m going to wear my sandaled clip-on shoes that I have from Keen, which have more rubber on the bottom of them. We’re going to go through the tunnels with our flashlights, I guess it’s a little drippy, but at least it will be cool in there, it won’t be hot. With all of our flashlights we should be safe and get through the three tunnels fine. I’m looking forward to that different experience. I guess at the end they said the last 30 miles are kind of tough, but the first 60 miles aren’t supposed to be too tough. So we are moving along. Tomorrow will be Day 33. We’re wearing our America By Bicycle jerseys so people as they see us going through the tunnels will know that we’re all together. I’m going to go have some dinner. I just want to say thank you to you all, God bless you all, and God bless America.

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