A routine clean-up of a rental property took an unexpected turn for Terry Martin-Back when he uncovered a bicycle among the random things the previous tenants left behind.
“I don’t know why, but as soon as I saw it, I knew it was my bike,” Martin-Back, 64, said.
Martin-Back served in the U.S. Army, and broke his leg in three places in 1991 while serving in Operation Desert Storm. His doctor said he’d probably never run again.
Now, Martin-Back is using his new bike to train for an 85-mile cycling trip from Gainesville to Crescent Beach. His goal: Raise money for the Alachua County Veterans Memorial Fund.
He hadn’t ridden a bike in over 40 years when he started training in September, but he has already raised $1,000 of his $5,000 goal. He plans to ride Dec. 7, and donate the money to clean up, fix or replace local veteran’s memorials.
“The trip should take between six-and-a-half and eight hours,” he said. “Dec. 7 is Pearl Harbor Day, and I chose this day for my trip because World War II veterans are fading quickly and deserve to be remembered.”
The county doesn’t have funds to upkeep local memorials like the Kanapaha Veterans Memorial Park on Tower Road, so the memorial fund committee raises money from private and corporate donors. The non-profit raised almost $900 on Veteran’s Day to upkeep of the memorials.
“I’m not ready to retire,” Martin-Back said. “This is something I’m doing to challenge myself and raise money for the local veteran’s memorial fund.”
Martin-Back said he hopes to spread awareness and inspire people to try new things.
“Memorials like the one on Tower Road give people a chance to see the names of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice,” Martin-Back said. “Preserving these memorials is important because those who served won’t be forgotten.”
Dan Monteau, 55, will be riding with Martin-Back. Monteau felt inspired to participate because many members of his family served in the military.
“It’s for a really good cause and I’ve always wanted to ride to St. Augustine,” he said.
Neither Martin-Back nor Monteau have ridden more than 35 miles, but they welcome the challenge.
“I look at it as one more opportunity to educate people about history and the local memorial fund,” Monteau said.