At approximately 7:00 a.m. on June 26, the weather was slightly windy and cool, before a bike ride commenced near a parking lot next to Kentmorr Restaurant & Crab House, in Stevensville Md. Lively music played in the background as bike riders sprayed bug spray on their arms and legs before pedaling up and down a nearby paved road. Fourteen bike riders engaged in various activities to warm up and prepare for the Patrick Feeks Memorial 100 Mile Bike Ride, as a view of the water offered a soothing background. Dedicated riders of all ages and experience levels were determined to make the ride that honored a 28-year-old Navy SEAL a success.
Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Patrick D. Feeks was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2012. Feeks, the fallen Navy SEAL, was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star with Combat V. He was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery and reportedly wanted to be a Navy SEAL most of his life. Individuals in his hometown of Edgewater, Md. have not forgotten the ultimate sacrifice that he made. Family and friends honored the Navy SEAL’s service to our country and courage, by committing to ride 100 miles from Kent Island to Dewey Beach, Del. The fun ride was a way to pay tribute to Feeks while raising money for Connected Warrior Foundation (CWF). The Annapolis based non-profit organization, founded in 2012, provides Android tablet devices to wounded Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
Feeks, also an avid cyclist, was once employed by Andrew Jack, the owner of Bike Doctor in Annapolis and sponsor of the ride. As cyclists pulled up and unloaded their bicycles, they took them to Jack. He patiently performed safety checks to make sure all of the bikes were properly tuned up. Jack also remained available to change flat tires, and provide energy gels and food later in the day.
“Patrick was an employee of mine. He worked with me about five years before he went to be a Navy SEAL. Basically, we do this ride to honor him. It’s going to get bigger and bigger each year,” Jack said.
Steve Salos served in the Navy for almost nine years. Salos participated in the ride for a second year to bring awareness to warrior projects and the fallen.
The youth ice hockey coach who works with the Naval Academy program happened to see the email about the ride and agreed to participate.
“There are multitudes of them. Connected Warrior is a local foundation that supports the wounded warriors and it’s a pretty good one. I want to bring awareness to that, and I’m a wounded warrior myself.”
Rachel Camm from Centerville Md. is fifteen-years-old. Camm, a friend of Salos, said that she was excited about the challenged of biking. Riding this year was something that she really wanted to do. Camm was one of many young people who took a personal interest in providing meaningful support to the Feeks family and Connected Warrior Foundation. The circle of support began in Carol Cave’s household. Her son, Britt Cave, was an ambitious fifteen-year-old when he had the idea to start the memorial ride. The Caves are neighbors of Ginny and Tom Feeks, the parents of Patrick Feeks.
“We are friends and all felt pretty terrible about it. The kids had been wanting to ride to this beach ride 100 miles with their hockey coach for a couple of years. Last year he said that he would happily take them. When they went to do it, Ginny, mother of the fallen SEAL, said that she would give us shirts to wear if we wanted to. We were like, ‘Yeah, sure.’ That just didn’t feel right to wear a memorial shirt and not do something, so she contacted Connected Warrior Foundation. We started talking to them a little bit. We planned our ride, got our food, and got the kids that wanted to do it. Three of my four kids and my husband planned the ride with the hockey coach. We wore memorial shirts, and got donations, and told the schools, and they rode to the beach last year. They said that wanted to do it again this year,” Carol Cave said.
Jim Leckinger, Director of Programs and Engagement for the Connected Warrior Foundation, managed the event. Leckinger started doing volunteer work for Connected Warrior Foundation and began working for the organization on a full-time basis in Feb. Leckinger expected the memorial ride to take 10 hours.
“The route was chosen for safety reasons and back roads, to get to Dewey Beach to make it a 100 mile ride, and the safest way to get there and have a nice dinner.”
Leckinger also said that everyone involved in the ride knew Feeks or is affiliated with Connected Warrior Foundation. CWF’s signature program, Operation Feek’s 7’s, is named after the fallen hero. CWF partners with Google, Inc. to improve the quality of life for wounded veterans through unique measures.
“We provide Android tablets to injured veterans. When they get injured, generally all of their possessions are left behind. They’re sent to Germany, usually the next day, and usually the United States two days later. They have left all of the people they know behind, and all of their belongings are left behind. They’re most of the time lucky if they have one family member, or spouse, or parent, who is with them while they are in the hospital. The idea behind the Android tablet is to give them something portable that they can carry around with them to stay connected with their out of town family, friends and battle buddies.”
For a period of time, tablets given to injured veterans were the Google Nexus 7. CWF now also offers Kindle Fire devices and any Android based tablet. CWF has been offering tablets a little over two years. The procedure to apply for a tablet is rather simple.
“The process now is to apply online the first Monday of every month, between noon and 4:00 p.m. The reason for that is that there’s a great demand for it. We only get so many per month that we can give out. If we leave it open, we’d have a lot of disappointed people,” Leckinger explained.
Leckinger estimated that CWF has been giving out 100+ tablets a month. In 2013, 1,350 were provided to applicants. Additionally, Leckinger remarked that Connected Warrior expanded the program to included injured veterans who are out of the hospital system.
“We found that the ones with PTSD out in the world would make great use of them. If they have traumatic brain injury, it helps them to organize their schedules and their medicines, and their doctors appointments. It helps them in educational ways.”
Tablets are reportedly mailed all over the country to active duty servicemembers and veterans. Honorably discharged wounded combat veterans who were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11 are eligible to apply for a device.
The Patrick Feeks 100 Mile Memorial Bike Ride ended at the Rusty Rudder Restaurant in Dewey Beach, Del. at 4:35 p.m. Proceeds from the ride will support CWF programs. Jeffrey Wells is the Founder and Executive Director of CWF. Visit www.connectedwarrior.org to learn more about this remarkable organization.