The bike ride to honor the fallen and help their families

13 minutes

•  They had his back in the war. Now he has theirs as they struggle in peacetime

•  “The paratroopers from our unit are entering the most dangerous periods of their lives”

(Total Recorded Time is 16:30)

Chris Kolenda went for a bike ride this autumn.  But not just the usual around-the-block thing.

Mr. Kolenda rode his bicycle for nearly 1,700 miles –from a cemetery in Nebraska to the nation’s most prominent cemetery –Arlington.

A retired Army colonel, Mr. Kolenda wanted to honor the memories of six men killed in action while under his command in Afghanistan in 2007.

And he hoped to raise funds for miliary families where the veteran is struggling -- sometimes fighting drugs, sometimes depression, post- traumatic stress or other ailments.

Mr. Kolenda also used his ride to call attention to the problem of suicide among military veterans. One estimate says 22 veterans take their own lives every day.

He points to another problem: communications.

“One of the challenges we’ve had is we on the veteran side don’t communicate very well with society about our experiences,” he says. “There’s this sort of expectation that veterans don’t talk about their experiences. And then on the society part, we don’t know how to ask veterans about their experiences.”

Watch the Bizgnus Interview here:

https://youtu.be/IVD3Oa9r-Ow

On his journey, he visited the graves of the six soldiers from his Afghanistan unit who were killed in action:

Donations made during the ride went to the Saber Six Foundation, a Milwaukee-based nonprofit that helps the 800 paratroopers from Mr. Kolenda’s Afghanistan military unit (1-91 CAV, 173rd Airborne), also known as Task Force SABER.

Over 7,000 American service members were killed in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. In the wars’ aftermath, over 30,000 post-9/11 veterans have died by suicide. Mr. Kolenda’s unit has lost more to suicide and substance abuse than were killed in combat.

“I can’t see this happening and do nothing about it,” says Mr. Kolenda. “The paratroopers from our unit are entering the most dangerous periods of their lives. In 15 years, I want to see our unit’s veterans and their families alive and thriving.”

During his military career, now-retired Army Col. Mr. Kolenda was the first American to have both fought the Taliban as a commander in combat and negotiated with them in peace talks. He and his unit also motivated a large insurgent group to switch sides, the only example of such success in the 20-year history of the war.

For more information: HonorRide.us

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