Airman pedals with purpose

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala -- The idea started in 2005, after Jody Hershbine's return from an 11-month tour in Iraq. His struggle to return to normality and transition from a deployed environment back to life at home led him to spend quiet moments riding his bicycle.

"I needed to kind of get my head back in the game, so I did a short ride from Birmingham to Chicago to spend some time with my best friend. For me, that was the best therapy ever and I started thinking maybe I can do something bigger, both for myself and for others."

This led Hershbine to marrying his thought cleansing bike-rides with his desire to give back to veterans struggling with their own transition back from deployment. He chose the Wounded Warrior Project as his partner in this ambition.

On July 6, 2015, he dipped his bike tire in the Atlantic Ocean and left Savannah, Georgia, pedaling towards Astoria, Oregon and the Pacific Ocean. He chronicled his journey on a web blog and raised donations for WWP.

"I encountered several difficulties along the way," said, Hershbine, a Doctrine Development and Education IT specialt at Curtis E. LeMay Center and a 187th Guardsman. "There were bike difficulties, issues with camping locations being flooded out, and the unexpected way that the trip ended. However, the money raised for those in need was well worth any troubles I may have encountered along the way."

Carrying about 125 pounds of gear on his bike, Hershbine traveled almost 3,500 miles and raised over $1,500 for veterans in need. He pedaled between 80-100 miles a day, with later treks lasting 36 hours without stopping."

"Traveling through many small towns, I got to speak with many people who wondered what I was doing biking that far," he said. "Raising awareness for veterans and seeing some of the best places and people that America has to offer was such a special experience."

Hershbine, who also serves as a Master Sergeant in the Alabama Air National Guard's 187th Fighter Wing, said that an encounter he had in a grocery store stuck in his mind the entire trip, propelling him through his quest despite the struggles.

"While in the store, doing a local media interview about my journey, the local Veterans Affair representative had to excuse himself early, stating that he had to attend a funeral," he said. "The funeral was for a 26-year old Marine who had killed himself after suffering from post tramatic stress disorder or PTSD, and leaving 2-small children behind. That really sat with me and reminded me why I am doing this, why I am raising this money."

Somewhere in Montana, the trip hit an unpassable obstacle. Hershbine lost a pouch that contained his military ID, driver's license, debit card and medical insurance card. Wildfires ahead of him, smoke becoming heavy in the air, and the loss of his essential items caused the trip to halt there. Fortunately he was able to get a new military ID at a nearby National Guard facility and cash to ship his bike and other items home.

"I'm already planning my next trip," he said. "I'm gonna start at the Canadian border and go south to the Mexican border, all off-road biking. Hopefully next time I can get some more people to come along with me and we can make it a bigger event and bigger impact."

To read his daily account from his trip, visit Hershbine's website http://crankingoutadventure.com .