|Disabled Veteran Foundation riders visit Oregon National Guard Headquarters in Salem
Emmy-nominated actor, Jack Scalia, visited Soldiers at the Oregon National Guard's Anderson Readiness Center in Salem, Ore., on Sept. 24. But instead of arriving in a limousine, as is customary for most actors, he arrived on a road racing bicycle.
The visit came during the Oregon leg of Scalia's Seattle-to-San Diego bicycle trek aimed at raising awareness and funds for injured military veterans and their families.
His riding companions included injured Iraqi veteran, J.R. Martinez, former Oregon Soldier, Kerry Kingsley-Smith, and John Wordin, executive director of Operation American Spirit – which aims to raise $50 million for severely injured military veterans over the next few years.
According to the organization's website, operationamericanspirit.org, donations will help injured military veterans concentrate on their recovery efforts, and ease financial burdens on their families. The organization aims to provide mentoring, recovery programs, job and trade assistance, and activities intended to improve morale.
Kingsley-Smith, who lives in Sheridan, joined up with the group in Portland on Sept. 23, and planned to ride through Oregon. He said the ride is personal to him because of his friendship with fellow rider Martinez.
Kingsley-Smith and Martinez met in 2003 while they were both at the Army's burn treatment unit at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. Martinez, a former Soldier who was injured in the line of duty, had been burned over 40-percent of his body. Kingsley-Smith, an Army nurse working as a therapist at the burn unit, found inspiration in Martinez's recovery.
"He had to put up with me because I kept sending him in to talk to the other veterans at the burn unit," Kingsley Smith said.
When Kingsley-Smith found out about the ride on the local television news, he jumped at the chance to be with his old friend Martinez, but also liked what Operation American Spirit was doing.
"I wanted to see the foundation reach their goal," said Kingsley-Smith, who planned to ride with the group toward southern Oregon before returning to his job in public health.
He added that though there are a lot of good stories about returning veterans, most of the stories about military members have a strong political angle. Being a part of the bike ride was his way of raising awareness for a really good story, he said.
Scalia echoed Kingsley-Smith, saying that the organization's goals have nothing to do with politics or the government.
"This is about mom and apple pie," Scalia said. "The military members of this country have stood watch for us for so long, and now it's time for us to stand up and do what's right for them."
If you would like to contribute to Operation American Spirit, or join in the journey to San Diego, visit their website at www.operationamericanspirit.org. The website also contains blogs and news releases which are updated daily.
070924-F-1639C-063: Riders with Operation American Spirit, stopped at the Oregon National Guard's Anderson Readiness Center, in Salem, Ore., Sept. 24, 2007. From left to right: Oregonian Kerry Kingsley-Smith, Actor Jack Scalia, Organization Executive Director, John Wordin, former Army Soldier, J.R. Martinez. The group plans to ride from Seattle to San Diego in order to raise funds and awareness for severely injured military veterans. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy, Oregon National Guard Public Affairs Office).
Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy
Oregon National Guard Public Affairs
Maj. Michael Braibish
Oregon National Guard Public Affairs