According to a BBC documentary a couple of years ago, there are an estimated 38,000 war memorials in the UK. Largely begun after World War I, names continue to be added to the present day. I saw the following war memorial outside of Salisbury on 25th Mar during the Plymouth Cycling Test Run and was struck by the recent addition at the bottom right of the memorial. It simply reads, ‘Afghanistan 2009 P. Upton’.
This is the first part of our mission – to remember.
Here is what I saw outside of Blenheim Palace (birthplace of Winston Churchill) during my Sunday ride around Oxfordshire, England
Dave Bayliss owns this 101st Airborne Division Jeep (it’s worth about $16k, with prices going up to $26k). This caused me to do a couple of queries. Here is one from wikipedia ‘According to American Community Survey in 2009 data, Americans reporting British ancestry made up an estimated (40,234,652) or 13.0% of the total U.S. population.’ To put it another way, if you were to take the population of the top 175 cities in the UK (from London to Staines) and list their inhabitants as British-Americans (16,183,377), you would still have about 24 million other British Americans left over to spread throughout the UK (UK’s current population is around 60 million).
Another interesting excerpt from Wikipedia ‘The 2001 UK Census recorded 158,434 people born in the United States. Estimates published by the Office for National Statistics suggest that, in 2009, the equivalent figure stood at 189,000.‘
Famous people who have parents who are American and British include, Winston Churchill, Henry James, Harold MacWilliam, and Keanu Reeves.
So the US/UK connection runs long and deep.
We’re cycling 4200 miles across the UK and the continental US, starting at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire on Apr 16th and finishing there on Jul 8th after cycling across the States from Ocean Shores, Washington on Apr 23rd to the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC on Jul 4th to raise £5m and $10m for registered US and UK military charities. Here is the overview of the US route that we are taking
At the start of each day, we will remember those who have given their lives since 09/11 in Iraq and Afghanistan and will dedicate that day’s ride to those specific people at a brief remembrance ceremony at the start point.
We will then highlight a US and a UK charity for each day of the journey and will ask that people make all donations for that day to that charity (of course, donors are free to donate to any military charity that they wish).
After the daily safety briefing and risk assessment, we set off for our destination point for that day, with the assistance of the Sea2Sea cycling state representative, the local cycling director for the day, and any cycling ‘shepherds’ that can assist us from the start to the finish point.
When we stop, we intend to speak with school, local civic and religious organizations to publicize who we are and why we are doing this, and then confirm the next day’s route. We will average 60 miles/day, with each Sunday as a rest day.
We welcome offers of assistance through our website – http://www.sea2sea.org
After thinking about this for a while and a number of people urging me to do so, I’m now committed to writing a regular blog about the Sea2Sea 2012 Challenge. Why me? I think that the photo below taken from a US Air Force medevac flight from Lourdes Hospital, France to Landstuhl Regional Military Hospital, Germany on 21 Sep 2009 sums it up
For me its about giving back what was given to me by the US military – my life, my health, my mobility, and a chance to make a difference by sharing my experiences of being in a trauma ward for 2 1/2 weeks with wounded soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan.
But the story isn’t really about me. It’s about the sacrifices that the US and UK service members, veterans, and their families have made since 9/11 and why we can be both proud and humbled by their heroic efforts to preserve our freedoms and our way of life.
It is a also a story of raising awareness and hope and helping to come to a better understanding about how service members, veterans, and their families can help us in our challenges to renew, rebuild, and revitalise our societies and communities with the skills, knowledge, experience, talents, and attitude that they have gained through their service.
This is why I’m cycling 4200 miles across the UK and continental US – to remember those who are no longer with us, to honour those who have been in uniform or have been a family member of those who wore the uniform, to support those still in uniform and those transitioning to civilian life, and hopefully, by these actions, continue to serve them and our countries in an honourable manner.