Bikers travel across country to honor fallen at Beirut Memorial

28 Jun 2012 | 2ndLt. Sarah E Burns

Cycling 3,870 miles across the United States and having another 1,000 more miles to go sounds hard, but to riders of the Sea2Sea Challenge it is nothing compared to the sacrifice service members and their families make every day.

The Sea2Sea riders, Tom von Kaenel and Alvon Elrod, and members of the Down East Cycling group from Jacksonville, N.C., biked to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune June 22 to deliver the daily remembrance ceremony at the Beirut Memorial.

“In this daily remembrance ceremony we call out the names of 100 U.S. and 10 British service members who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11,” said von Kaenel. “The ceremony is the hardest part of the trip. No amount of biking will ever be as hard as the sacrifices our service members and families make every day.”

The ceremonies occurred in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina and now North Carolina.

There was also a special remembrance ceremony at Mount Rushmore honoring all the Native Americans who were killed at Wounded Knee, S.D.

In addition to the ceremonies, the group met with Gold Star Mothers and widows of service members from Iraq and Afghanistan to specifically remember those they lost.

Sea2Sea Foundation was created to raise awareness about the sacrifices U.S. and U.K. service members faced since 9/11. It was launched November 11, 2011, after von Kaenel, a retired American service member and founder of Sea2Sea, recovered from a serious biking accident that demanded immediate medical attention provided by a medical evacuation flight to a military hospital.

“The number of procedures there helped save my life, so I said if I am going to be able to walk again, if I was going to be able to live again, I am going to do this,” von Kaenel said.

Von Kaenel biked to Heathrow International Airport April 16, thus beginning the Sea2Sea challenge.

The American portion of the bike ride began as von Kaenel, Elrod, and Bruce Hammersley, a professional photographer, blogger and the safety vehicle driver, departed Ocean Shores, Wash., April 23. Chip Minks, their childhood friend, flew in from Germany to complete the last 1,000 miles of the ride through Quantico, Va., and into Washington D.C.

The ride is scheduled to conclude July 3 in Arlington, Va., where there will be a final remembrance ceremony followed by an all-night vigil at the chapel at Fort Myer, Va.

At the all-night vigil, they will place an index card with a name for each U.S. service member who was killed in action since 911. These 7,000 cards will serve as a visual reminder of how many 7,000 lives entail.

“The morning of July 4, we will gather up the 7,000 index cards and take them to the Marine Corps Memorial,” von Kaenel said. “There we will give them to cyclists who will carry them to the Lincoln Memorial, where a two-minute ceremony will complete the U.S. portion of this mission.”

“It’s the experience of a lifetime,” Elrod said. “This country is just blessed to have such great people.”

The group rides approximatly 60 to 80 miles each day for 11 weeks and uses Sundays for recovery. Support is encouraged at every level whether it be by riding with them or through donations. Their goal is to raise $10 million for U.S. and U.K. service member, and veteran charities.

If you are interested in riding with Sea2Sea, donating or for more information, please visit