Friday, August 6, 2021

Grueling ‘Guardian Ride’ fundraiser nearing for Windham veteran

POLICEMAN TO RIDE BIKE 360 MILES TO HELP MILITARY UNIT

By Ed Pierce

Windham resident Brian McCarthy, a South Portland police
officer, will undertake a 360-mile trek n his mountain bike
from Windham to Moosehead Lake and back in an effort
to raise money for his former military unit, the 488th
Military Police Company based in Waterville. This is
the fourth summer that McCarthy has rode across Maine
on his 'Guardian Ride' to help fund programs that assist
families of soldiers serving overseas.
SUBMITTED PHOTO  
When Brian McCarthy had to deploy with his U.S. Army unit to serve in the Gulf War, the last thing he needed to worry about was the well-being of his wife Kristin and daughter Logan at home. McCarthy learned first-hand the peace of mind that organizations like the 488th Military Police Company’s Family Readiness Group give to soldiers serving overseas, helping families solve problems at home while their loved ones are miles away.

When McCarthy retired as an Army Sergeant First Class following a 20-year military career, he vowed to do whatever he could to help continue the important work of the 488th’s Family Readiness Group and in a few weeks, he’s going to embark on his fourth 350-mile “Guardian Ride” to raise money for the organization.

All money pledged to McCarthy during his summer bicycle ride is donated to the Family Readiness Group and are used for such things as the purchase of back-to-school supplies for military dependent children, a summer cookout for unit families and single soldiers alike with water sports and camping, a catered unit Christmas party with a visit from Santa, emergency relief funds for families in need, and for keeping unit families in touch with their loved ones stationed overseas.       

McCarthy, a South Portland police officer, will depart from the Windham Veterans Center for this year’s trip on Aug. 23 and hopes to return to Windham on Sunday, Aug. 29. Through three previous “Guardian Ride” trips across Maine, he’s raised more than $10,000 for the Family Readiness Group and will use a 23-year-old HARO mountain bike with an Allen Sports cargo trailer for his adventure.

“My route this year will be an out-and-back ride from Windham to Moosehead Lake and back, and possibly a loop route to Moosehead, then west to Jackman, and then home, depending upon what I see for road conditions,” said McCarthy, who is undertaking the trek while on vacation from his job as a South Portland police officer. “I’ve never been up there before, so much of my route reconnaissance depends on Google Street View images and studying elevation changes in the Delorme Gazeteer. The total mileage looks to be around 350 to 360 miles over seven days.”

According to McCarthy, the hardest part of each “Guardian Ride” is getting to each day’s portion of the trip.

“The finish line is a wonderful glowing vision, but the end of each day comes with very little fanfare and is fairly aptly described at times as a hasty retreat from the beating sun or cold rain,” he said. “I’m far from an elite athlete nor an accomplished cyclist, so 50-plus miles per day, towing a trailer along the hilly main streets and back roads of Maine, for seven straight days, is among the toughest physical challenges I’ve endured. And doing it alone makes for some long quiet days. But my cause, and my donors and supporters keep me motivated.”

For his efforts, McCarthy was presented with the 2021 American Legion’s Humanitarian Service Award in June at the Maine American Legion Convention in Brewer and said that he was deeply humbled by the honor.   

“Receiving the American Legion’s Humanitarian Service Award was a complete surprise to me,” McCarthy said. “I didn’t take on this endeavor for any personal recognition, so to be recognized by such a great group of veterans, patriots, and community volunteers was very humbling. I have a tremendous amount of respect for our Legionnaires and their history of service in and out of uniform. I’m very thankful to Dave Tanguay for the nomination and my Post 148 family for their support.”

Tanguay, the adjutant for Windham’s American Legion Field-Allen Post 148, says McCarthy is a good man and American legion member who is making a substantial difference for his former National Guard unit, the 488th Military Police Company based in Waterville.

“For the fourth consecutive year, Brian is taking personal time off from his duties in South Portland as a police officer to make a seven-day trek across Maine called the ‘Guardian Ride,’ on his mountain bike and trailer as a fundraiser for the unit’s Family Readiness Group and youth programs for deployed family members,” Tanguay said. “Over the last four summers, the American Legion Field-Allen Post has supported Brian as a base of operation and financially in support of his goal. We are looking forward to Aug. 23 to give Brian a rousing send-off on his latest trek.”

Support from Windham’s American Legion post and from his former military unit have boosted McCarthy’s spirit during his long solitary rides since he began the project.

I’ve received overwhelming and heartfelt support from my old unit, the 488th Military Police Company. I’m still in regular contact with current soldiers and leaders through social media, as well as unit alumni like myself,” McCarthy said. “They are extremely appreciative of not just my efforts on the bike, but also of the generosity of my donors and ride supporters.”

Stretching himself to the limit physically and mentally each day while on the ride, McCarthy said he stays focused on the underlying purpose of the fundraiser and the good things it does for others.

“When I deployed, I had a great deal of support from my family, not only in the form of emails and phone calls, but also in the knowledge and surety that they were secure in our home, in their schooling, jobs, etc. I was blessed with strong family supports,” he said. “I also knew that our unit’s Family Readiness Group had our back, just in case there was an unforeseen emergency or if something fell through the cracks. Additionally, my coworkers and community also rallied around me and my soldiers, keeping us well supported with care packages and cards, etc. With me taking on this ride every year, and raising not only funding, but also awareness of the FRG, is my own little way of giving back to the unit and its families behind the scenes.”

He said the “Guardian Ride” is important to him because he truly loves our soldiers and their families.

“Even more so, now that I’m out of uniform, I look at the hard work our National Guard ‘citizen soldiers’ do overseas and here at home, and I just feel like I need to show our appreciation,” McCarthy said. “And if I can help raise a few bucks for more burgers at the unit picnic, or more kayaks and tent sites at the unit family weekend, or a few more goodies in the back-to-school supplies, or a few more presents from Santa at the Christmas party, then it’s all worthwhile. I will do this ride every year as long as I’m able, and then maybe pass the torch to a fellow 488th alumnus. Ideally, I’d love to inspire a fellow retiree from each of Maine’s National Guard units to undertake their own versions of an FRG ride. I think that would be quite an event.”

To make a pledge to McCarthy for this year’s “Guardian Ride,” visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/the-guardian-ride-2021 <

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