Soldiers' Angels, Dan Forant and Keystone Soldiers unite in the Freedom Ride across the United States to symbolize bringing America together coast-to-coast to Support Our Troops On March 1, 2004.
Dan Forant, father of Spc. Daniel Forant, III will begin a 3,000 mile trip by bicycle to benefit our troops serving in Iraq. His journey will begin in Albany, New York and finish in California taking approximately 45 days, weather permitting.
Mr. Forant will have a laptop with video and still picture capability whereby that information is sent to New York City via uplink. America will be able to watch his daily progress by visiting this site. We ask all Americans to raise their communities & please pledge 1-penny for every 3 miles of the journey - approx. $20.00 for the entire trip. Or contribute whatever you'd like.
Proceeds for our Troops!
Soldiers' Angels was formed in July of 2003 by Patti Patton-Bader, Mother of Spc Brandon Varn
stationed in Iraq. Soldier's Angels mission is to provide aid and comfort to any armed forces fighting for freedom and their families. Soldier's Angels have to date sent over 2,000 packages to Soldiers deployed, helped the wounded at 3 major military hospitals and aided many families.
WWW.keystonesoldiers.com - Keystone Soldiers was founded in June of 2002 by Kyle Lord, or lordzmom as she is better known to the soldiers, when her own son, SPC Brent J Lord, was deployed for Operation Enduring Freedom. Even though her son is now serving in the states she felt there was still an urgent and compassionate need for Americans to show their support for others who are serving their country. Keystone Soldiers sent out over 600 Christmas care packages and 20,000 holiday cards to those who could not be with their families this year. Supporting those on the frontline of freedom!
Freedom Bicycle Ride - NYC - New York City - Featured Event
FORT CARSON - Tears flowed freely Saturday in an old gym on this 6-decade-old military post.
Within a span of 10 hours, 185 war-weary troopers from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment returned home from Iraq to an emotional crowd, 475 citizen soldiers tearfully said goodbye to their families as they prepared to take the Carson soldiers' places in Iraq, and the love of three military couples about to endure separation was sealed in marriage.
The arrival of the 185 troopers Friday night was the first wave of thousands of soldiers returning home after completing duty in Iraq. The departure of their replacements Saturday morning was a poignant reminder of the heartache faced by families left behind.
"This is about the most humbling crowd I've seen," Brig. Gen. Joseph Orr said as he walked into the gymnasium at 10:15 a.m. Saturday and saw a standing-room-only crowd of more than 700 people, largely from North Dakota. They had boarded buses or carpooled to Fort Carson to officially send off the 141st Engineer Combat Battalion of North Dakota.
"It's no joke when you go through it," said Juanita Gonzales, who at 12:45 a.m. Saturday finally got to embrace her husband as he returned home from war.
After the first of two Air Force jets carrying the 185 returning troopers arrived at Peterson Air Force Base at 7:45 p.m. Friday, the Fort Carson soldiers would have to wait another five hours before finally seeing their loved ones.
"I've got butterflies," said Juanita's husband, Tomas, shortly after landing on U.S. soil. The 35-year- old trooper's eyes filled with tears when he spoke of the very thing a year ago he took for granted and then sorely missed while in Iraq.
"My family," he said.
The Gonzaleses and their children, Janice, 15; Jeffery, 14; Tommy, 13; and Mark, 11, were finally reunited when they formed minute-long group hug with each of them crying.
The weekend's arrival of Fort Carson troopers set off a flurry of such homecomings.
Starting in March, about a planeload of soldiers per day are expected to arrive in Colorado Springs as the first year of occupation ends for more than 130,000 GIs. Another 100,000 U.S. soldiers, such as those with the North Dakota National Guard, head out to take their place. Roughly 40 percent of the next rotation of soldiers heading into Iraq are Reserve components. Fort Carson sent more than 12,000 soldiers to war last year.
Lt. Col. Robert Fode stopped in mid-sentence during the send-off Saturday as he tried to control his emotions after looking into the crowd of family members and asking them to take care of one another while the guardsmen are in Iraq for presumably the next year. Fode's battalion is scheduled to leave Fort Carson for the Persian Gulf on Monday morning.
The journey for the soldiers will be long, just as it was for the returning soldiers, who packed up almost a year ago as the United States invaded Iraq.
"It's great to be home," said Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Webb of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. "It was a good experience, but I wouldn't want to do it too many times."
Over the months, soldiers in the regiment have had more than their share of heartaches and disappointments, with roughly half of the 41 deaths of Fort Carson soldiers inflicted on the 3rd.
Along with the personal sorrow that war brings, the separation from families was much longer than many anticipated when they shipped out last spring. At the time, soldiers thought they would be home in time to see their children off to school in late summer.
Instead, they learned late that summer that they weren't likely to return home until after year's end.
The homecoming and reintegration to a pseudo-civilian life is one that the military has been planning for months.
There have been and continue to be reunion briefings with stateside spouses and family members as well as briefings in the Persian Gulf for exiting soldiers.
"By taking care of the family, you've got a soldier that is going to stay in the military," Lt. Col. Pat Devine said.
Social workers, chaplains and mental-health experts have been preparing for the stresses that deployment can bring - not only to the soldier but to the family - and say they want to do everything they can to help.
Several additional chaplains have been called to Fort Carson, and others who had planned to leave have been asked to stay to help with services.
Evans Army Community Hospital has also temporarily increased its staff by more than 120 workers to help with the medical and mental-health evaluations and testing.
In addition to reunions, there were marriage vows to be said by the three couples who were married in the old gym on Saturday following the send off ceremony of the National Guard troops.
"I just love him so much," cried 22-year-old Kimberly Knudson of Bismarck, N.D., just moments after marrying 23-year-old Sgt. Sam Hemphill.
DenverPost.com - War & Security