MILWAUKEE - Biking 1,700 miles cross country is a feat enough on its own, but when you hear why one Milwaukee man is taking on the journey, you’ll understand why it’s so important.
You always hear the journey is more important than the destination, and with this, it’s really true.
There was a sendoff event Wednesday, Sept. 21 at the Milwaukee County War Memorial for retired U.S. Army Colonel Chris Kolenda who will get on his bike Sunday to honor six close to him who died fighting for our country.
He may have a 1,700-mile bike ride ahead of him, but Kolenda’s driving force is never far away.
"It’s got the name of our six paratroopers (on my bike), so whenever I need a little extra motivation, I’m hurting a bit, I just look down," said Kolenda. "That’s all I need."
It’s been about 15 years since six paratroopers in Kolenda's unit were killed in action in Afghanistan.
"I mean, they gave everything," said Kolenda.
Kolenda is giving his all to honor them, ready to embark on a Fallen Hero Honor Ride.
"I want them to be known as flesh and blood human beings and not just names etched in granite," said Kolenda.
He’ll visit the grave sites and families of each paratrooper starting in Nebraska with Chris Pfeifer, who died 15 years ago on Sept. 25.
"The next day, his wife, Karen, went into labor. The day after that, his daughter, Payton, was born," said Kolenda. "She’ll be two days shy of her 15th birthday on Sunday. She’ll be there."
The ride will end at Arlington National Cemetery, but Kolenda's mission doesn’t stop there.
"Within my own unit, with our 800, we had six killed in action," said Kolenda. "We’ve now lost more than that due to suicide and substance abuse."
Money raised from the ride will go to his foundation, which supports members of Kolenda’s unit and their families.
"I want them to know somebody who gets them has got their backs," said Kolenda. "I’m ready to go. Now, it’s just a matter of getting the job done."
Kolenda's foundation, "The Saber Six," also supports a Rotary Club of Milwaukee scholarship for kids who don't otherwise have a way to go to college.
According to Kolenda's website, these are the six paratroopers Kolenda is honoring, their places of burial and dates of death:
- Pfc. Chris Pfeifer – Spalding, Nebraska, Sept. 25, 2007
- Sgt. Adrian Hike – Carroll, Iowa, Nov. 12, 2007
- Spc. Jacob Lowell – Elwood, Illinois, June 2, 2007
- SSgt. Ryan Fritsche – Hall, Indiana, July 27, 2007
- Capt. Dave Boris – Minersville, Pennsylvania, Nov.12, 2007
- Maj. Tom Bostick – Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, July 27, 2007