The road home is long, but the journey is still what counts the most.
When our founder, Casey Miller, decided to come up with a crowdfunding project for military veterans, there were a lot of uncertainties: Where do we begin? How will we do it? Will we be able to raise anything from this endeavor? Will we succeed in making the lives of war vets better? How to write about it? Is it even possible?
Even with these worries, we pushed through. We started the project by asking five war veterans— heroes, in our eyes— to join the ride.
U.S. Army Combat Photographer Ryan Creel was joined by Colleen Bushnell (U.S. Air Force Ret., 39), Steve Taylor (U.S. Air Force Ret., 59), Marie “Marty” Tracy (U.S. Air Force, 27), and Army Service Ribbon and The National Defense Service Medal awardee Glenn Isaac Fretz in cycling approximately 90 miles to get “home.”
And finally, the 4,200-mile expedition began.
The Long Road Home Project crew, at first, were an optimistic bunch. There had been a lot of talk about how people would be applauding our volunteer cyclist on their quest, some even wishing they could join the ride.
Still, it wasn’t without hardships. There were hiccups when the ride began along Tacoma where some of the roads along St. Helens Avenue between Opera Alley/Court C and South 9th Street, and South 7th and South Baker streets were closed due to the Silverstone Pride Day Celebration and Mix Pride Block Party, respectively.
Fortunately, the scheduled events were set to end at dawn, so our riders were able to proceed in the morning.
And, after cycling through nearly 160 miles for more than 13 hours, our riders touched down in Portland, Oregon— a place where significant events for the Long Road Home Project transpired.
Our riders were able to arrive in the well-rounded region that boasts weirdness in their unofficial motto. Glenn was leading the flock at the time and the team had been parched from riding through the scorching sun. And then, for some reason, a couple of joggers approached them.
The conversation wasn’t long, but it was indeed fruitful. The group, who wished to remain anonymous, had a similar goal to the Long Road Home project: to help war veterans get over the events of the past.
One of them— a woman in her 20s— said that her grandfather used to tell horrifying stories from his time in the war zone. He was a medic. Although he survived with minimal physical wounds, he wasn’t free from emotional distress after seeing how soldiers— his patients— got shot at, maimed, and were literally butchered by the enemies.
Although her comrades didn’t have a close encounter to hostilities in the war zone to what she had with her granddad’s stories, they understood the situation well. They see these heroes left in the roads, homeless and penniless.
But before they start fading, the group wanted to do something to thank them. They put up a garage sale of belongings they no longer need. Young though they may be, these millennials definitely understood and value the contributions of the country’s war heroes.
And with this, the Long Road Home Project was able to raise $5,000 more, a significant addition to our $75,000 minimum goal.
On top of the money that will be used to help take war vets out of homelessness, the group of youngsters in Portland also helped raise awareness about the matter. They had talks with other people gathered at Colonel Summers Park.
There, several mothers and single women, who were either taking their children for a breath of fresh air or their dogs for a walk, gathered together to learn about PTSD and shell shock. Some of them even turned out to be wives of soldiers currently deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Knowing what it is like to have the head of the family in the middle of dangerous battlefields, these women were able to raise $7,000 more from solicitation and other fundraising efforts.
This community is indeed a tight-knit family, willing to help whenever needed. Thank you, Portland. It was indeed a wonderful ride.
About the Long Road Home Project
The Long Road Home Project is a collective effort to raise funds and awareness to help ease the alarming condition of the country’s scarred heroes. For 90 days, five retired military personnel from different backgrounds unite to go on a 90-day journey to Washington DC.
Our goal is not just to amass enough money to help veterans in their transition from the life in the war zone but also to prevent these shocking statistics:
- A war vet commits suicide every 80 minutes or as many as 6,500 in a year.[G5]
- More than 100,000 veterans are homeless across the United States while 1 million more are close to having the same situation.
- As many as 270,000 PTSD cases have been reported since the battle in Iraq and Afghanistan began.
Any amount of the proceeds raised on top of the $75,000 goal will go to Operation First Response, a non-governmental organization that strives to ensure the people in the military have enough support when they finally head home.