The Journey is the Destination
Mission: Readiness member reflects on lessons learned from a cross-country bike ride
By Vice Admiral (Ret.) Manson K. Brown, U.S. Coast Guard
As military leaders, we spent our service careers encouraging personnel to be physically and mentally fit for life. Now as Mission: Readiness members, we encourage America’s youth to do the same. The big difference is, the older I get the more challenging it becomes to walk (or bike) the walk.
My service with Mission: Readiness has provided a great opportunity to see kids, many who face significant challenges, work diligently to lead a healthy life. Similarly, there are others who require encouragement to eat healthy and stay active. Advocating for these kids is a reminder of the need to lead by example.
With this in mind, I embarked on a cross-country bike ride from Portland, Oregon, to Yorktown, Virginia, in May 2017. It proved to be the experience and challenge of a lifetime. I was constantly encouraged by the kindness our fellow Americans generously offered riders like me along the way. Observing the scenic beauty America has to offer only strengthened my love for the greatest nation on the planet. Like any meaningful journey, however, there were some challenging seas to navigate.
On day forty-one, a minor mishap resulted in major consequences. Thirty miles into a ride through Kansas, I lost control of the bike and went off the edge of the median. In anticipation of the crash, I instinctively rolled onto my right side and hit the pavement with my right hand, shoulder, hip, and leg. Immediately following the crash, I sprang to my feet and did what many cyclists do after a fall: I checked my bike! Thankfully, it sustained minimal damage. A visit to a nearby hospital showed that my body wasn’t as fortunate as the bike. A fractured clavicle was a mission terminating diagnosis.
After healing up and retraining, I traveled back to Kansas to pick-up at the point where I had fallen. Thirty-eight days later, I cleared the crest of a hill in Yorktown, and sped down to the spot where my family was waiting for me. The mission was complete.
Oftentimes during the trek, I thought about the kids we advocate for. So many of them fall down, too. Having grown up in the Petworth neighborhood of Washington, DC, I can tell you firsthand that the health and wellness policies Mission: Readiness fights for can make the difference between a kid staying down or getting back up.
To my esteemed Mission: Readiness colleagues: thank you for your continued service to our nation. You are making a difference. It’s a privilege to work alongside each of you as we aim to prepare America’s youth to be citizen-ready and able to serve their nation in any way they choose.
Vice Admiral (Ret.) Manson Brown is the former U.S. Coast Guard Deputy Commandant for Mission Support and Commander of Coast Guard Pacific Area. Following his retirement from the Coast Guard, President Obama nominated Admiral Brown as an Assistant Secretary of Commerce at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In this position, he oversaw environmental satellite programs and the business transformation of the National Weather Service. Admiral Brown is an avid cyclist and a supporter of numerous nonprofit organizations.
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