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Cyclist Riding Across America To Help Veterans

May 17, 2012, 6:50 PM by Derek Olson

Cyclist Riding Across America To Help Veterans
KEYSTONE, SD -

An American veteran is cycling across the United States raising awareness for charities benefiting wounded troops.  Today the ride, dubbed Sea2Sea, made a stop at Mount Rushmore.

Because of the ride, on Thursday the names of 100 service members who lost their lives in Iraq or Afghanistan were read aloud at the monument.

"Every time you read the names you think about the fact that they're not going to have the chance to grow old.  They've given their lives for what we have," South Dakota Army National Guard Col. James Webster said.

It's a daily ritual for Tom von Kaenel, who has been riding his bicycle across the United States to help raise money for veterans organizations.

"That is the only non-negotiable part of this trip.  I'm willing to look at different routes. I'm willing to look at different stops and start points and everything else.  But we will not cycle until we read these names off," Sea2Sea founder Tom von Kaenel.

The ride began in Great Britain on the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 and will end in Washington D.C. on the Fourth of July. Along the way, local cyclists have joined von Kaenel for portions of his ride.

"For me who is a non-military person, it is a small way, a small token to show appreciation to our troops," Dakota Bike Tours owner Jim Books said.

Von Kaenel decided to make the journey after a serious cycling accident in France landed him in an American military hospital in Germany.  There, he saw first-hand the price soldiers were paying for our country.

"So from that point I made the commitment that if I was going to live and was going to walk again that I would do this and that's what I'm doing now," von Kaenel said.

It's a commitment that local cyclists are happy to support.

"There's no greater feeling to do something that you love to do and to accomplish something that you're passionate about," Webster said.

"It is an act of joy and bliss to be able to dedicate this ride to those people, because without them we wouldn't be here enjoying our freedoms," von Kaenel said.

Von Kaenel usually rides between 60 and 75 miles, six days a week.  Today, his journey took him from Mount Rushmore to Rapid City.

If you're interested in donating to a registered military charity there's information on how you can do so on the group's website.

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