Wednesday, September 7, 2022

‘Guardian Ride V’ a test of endurance for police officer

By Ed Pierce

Brian McCarthy of Windham learned much during his time in the military but one new thing he found was how military families like his own were cared for and looked after when he was serving overseas. When he retired as an Army Sergeant First Class following a 20-year military career, McCarthy kept his pledge to support military families through what he calls the “Guardian Ride,” an annual long distance bicycle trip to raise money for Maine’s 488th’s Family Readiness Group which assists military dependents in resolving problems while military personnel are away from home.

Windham's Brian McCarthy will undertake his fifth
'Guardian Ride' to raise money for Maine military families
starting on Sunday, Sept. 11. McCarthy will cycle from
Windham to New Hampshire and into Massachusetts before
returning to South Portland on Sept. 17, a route consisting
of more than 319 miles. COURTESY PHOTO
McCarthy, a police officer in South Portland, is now preparing for the fifth edition of his cycling fundraiser and the 2022 “Guardian Ride V” will be taking a new route through some different terrain and passing through different states that promise new challenges for him from previous years. It kicks off Sunday and will span seven days while covering hundreds of miles.

“This year, for the first time, I’m venturing south,” McCarthy said. I’ll be on a loop ride from the Windham Veterans Center, departing on Sunday, Sept. 11, across southern New Hampshire, passing through my hometown of Templeton, Massachusetts, and then returning to Bug Light Park in South Portland on Sept. 17. This year’s route should be 319-plus miles.”

While stretching himself to the limit physically and mentally each day cycling on the ride, McCarthy said he remains focused on the basis for the fundraiser.

“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 co-workers 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 for the FRG, is my own little way of giving back to the unit and its families behind the scenes.”

Supporting McCarthy on this year’s ride are his wife, Kristin, daughter Logan, colleagues from the South Portland Police Department, and his friends from the American Legion Field-Allen Post 148 in Windham.

“I’ve been blown away by the generosity of my donors, friends, and family. Over the first four years, we’ve raised over $15,000 for Maine military families,” McCarthy said. “In addition to monetary donations, several households have helped with my ongoing year-round can and bottle drive, I’ve had a soldier-owned bike shop provide some parts and repairs on my bike, and I’ve had friends in every corner of the state host me at their homes and camps for meals and showers along my routes.”

McCarthy says that the feedback he’s received from his military friends has been entirely appreciative and supportive of the “Guardian Ride.”

Having served in three separate National Guard units here in Maine in Brewer, Westbrook and Waterville, I have fellow veteran brothers and sisters in every corner of the state,” he said. “They’ve made very generous donations, hosted me for overnights, cookouts, showers, and have even jumped out of their trucks to say hi when they see me passing through their town. I’ve received updates and pictorials from the FRG leader, to show how the group is incorporating our donations into their annual family functions. And our local service organizations, particularly Windham’s own Field-Allen American Legion Post 148, spearheaded by Post Adjutant David Tanguay, has been very supportive with donations, send-offs, and ‘welcome homes’ for me.”

By collecting pledges made for his ride on a Go Fund Me page, McCarthy raised more than $6,000 in 2021 and hopes to better that this year.

“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. They are extremely appreciative of not just my efforts on the bike, but also of the generosity of my donors and ride supporters.”

Once more, McCarthy will be using his 24-year-old HARO mountain bike and pulling an Allen Sports cargo trailer for this year’s fundraiser.

“In terms of challenges, in years past I’ve covered long, quiet, remote stretches of road in central and northern Maine. This year, heading south, I expect there to be much more vehicle traffic and urban and suburban roadways. So, I’ll definitely be on alert, staying far to the right, and keeping my head on a swivel. And as always, it’s impossible to scout every mile of such a long ride, so I’m sure there will be plenty of surprises along the way: monster hills, construction sites, and detours.”

According to McCarthy, being out on the open road on his bicycle for his “Guardian Rides” have been some of the best days of my life.

“I’ve been on luxury cruises and beach vacations, but to pack everything you need for a week onto your bicycle, chart a course, and then wind your way through the countryside, is the most relaxing, refreshing time I can recall,” he said. “Crisp morning air rushing by, roadside snacks, friendly faces, and chats with strangers. And this year I have the special treat of biking through my childhood hometown in Templeton, Mass. I’m hoping to see some old friends that day.”

All money collected from the “Guardian Ride” is donated to the Family Readiness Group and used for such things as purchasing back-to-school supplies for military dependent children, a summer cookout and gathering for unit families and single soldiers, a catered unit Christmas party with a visit from Santa for unit families, emergency relief funds for families in need, and for keeping unit families in touch with their loved ones who are stationed overseas.

To make a pledge to McCarthy for this year’s “Guardian Ride,” visit <

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