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Monday, July 23, 2012

Tennessee Air National Guard Forms a New Cycling Team

Tennessee Air National Guard Forms a New Cycling Team
By:  CMSgt Michael G. Lander
This article was originally written on August 4, 2009

Members of the Tennessee Air National Guard Cycling Team.  From left to right are Capt Keith Ashford, MSgt Wayne Knight, MSgt Malcolm Gilbert, SMSgt Deanne Davis, MSgt Mary Keenan, SSgt David Cooper, Capt Brian Gordon, Corey Wampler, and CMSgt Michael Lander.  Those not pictured include SSgt Terrence Bronson and TSgt Jonathan "Turtle" Tweel.
Since 1947, the Tennessee Air National Guard has had a very proud history in which it has had its members mobilize and deploy while also providing airlift support for emergency relief as well as for military operations and various contingencies over the years.  While several individuals live outside the Memphis metropolitan area, most of the unit members live in and around the city of Memphis and are an integral part of the local community.

Even with the military commitments that sometimes takes it's members to many different places around the world, many of them are always interested in doing things for the local Memphis community as well.  This is one of the main reasons that they formed a new cycling team composed of cycling enthusiasts from the unit who love to ride and who want to do so for one or more charitable organizations. 

Although the new Tennessee Air National Guard Cycling Team plans have been to eventually do various charity rides in the future, their main goal for this year is to prepare for and to participate in a 150-mile bike ride on 12 – 13  September 2009 to benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS).  This two-day cycling event is sponsored by Federal Express and is known as the “Fed Ex Rock-n-Roll” MS-150 bike ride.

As of this date, there are nineteen (19) individuals who have joined the Tennessee Air National Guard Cycling Team and the team captain, MSgt Deanne Davis, hopes to have as many as twenty people sign up for it before the ride starts in September.  It is open to anyone assigned to the unit, their family members, and any retirees who are interested in cycling. 

The two-day ride will begin at Graceland and will travel through North Mississippi, ending up at Harrah’s Casino in Tunica for the night.  The route for the second day will start at the entranceway to the casino and will end up back at Graceland the following day.  Each day, the riders will do about 75 miles with rest stops about every 10 miles along their 150-mile trek where they are greeted by cheers from volunteers and where they have an opportunity to take a break, grab a quick bite to eat, refill their water bottles. 

Most of the individuals on this newly-created cycling team will tell you that having a Guard cycling team, that does charity rides, will present a positive image to the local community.  Some of them also see that it will likely help in recruiting efforts and also see this as an opportunity to help each of them in staying in shape and remaining physically fit themselves. 

Beyond all of that, however, most of the cyclists are primarily motivated to participate in this upcoming 150-mile bike ride for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society because they either have friends, acquaintances, or family members who have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. 

As many previous participants in this event will tell you, when you can associate this ride with a name and a face of someone that you know who has MS, you can not help but give everything that you can toward the cause.

In the United States, there are 400,000 people who have been diagnosed with MS and for those who have this dreaded disease, they often live a life of unpredictability and uncertainty of how the disease is going to manifest itself in their lives.  For some, they may remain symptom-free for long periods of time, while others are not as fortunate and may quickly lose their ability to walk or to see.  When it comes to MS, until there is a cure, the only sure thing that any of us can count on is that another person is going to be diagnosed with it every hour of every day. 

Perhaps through the fund-raising efforts like the 150-mile bike ride that the Tennessee Air National Guard team is participating in, it will one day help to bring about an end to MS once and for all.

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