By Sherrie Norris
A group of veterans on motorcycles representing Coast X Coast stopped in Boone last Tuesday on their cross-country journey to honor fallen members of Special Operations Forces, while attempting to have a positive impact on the lives of those wounded and their families.
It wasn’t just a random stop for veteran Jonathan Wilson, the organization’s Director of Operations, but rather a quick visit to his hometown and a chance to see his parents, Johnny and Wanda Wilson.
Having begun their trek from Marina Del Rey, California on August 27, their first official stop was at the LA National Cemetery in Los Angeles the following day; they made many stops along the way to visit graves and families of their designated honorees, and to participate in special fundraising events to further their mission.
The group came through Boone on September 7 enroute to the Fort Bragg area; they reached their final destination at Arlington National Cemetery three days later. “We typically cover 4500 miles in two weeks with about 8 to 10 events as fundraisers,” Wilson shared. “The mountains of Western North Carolina are probably the most gorgeous part of our trip. We came through there after leaving Nashville, Tennessee, on our way toward Fayetteville.”
Wilson explained what Coast X Coast is all about, an organization that was started after a teammate was killed in 2012 in northern Afghanistan.
“He wasn’t the first to get killed in combat — and by far wasn’t the last — but we wanted to find ways to turn it into more of a positive operation and a way to raise money to help others who were injured, many of them long-term.”
Wilson went on to say, “The Special Operations community has the highest percentage of combat deaths and injuries over the past two decades, and since that has been my profession both in and out of the uniform, we run this ride every year to facilitate funds for medical treatment and financial support to the kids of the fallen teammates.”
The route was planned around the families, initially, Wilson added. “And we run events in different cities that we stop in. We have a pretty unique hockey game out in Las Vegas with the Golden Knights practice facility. The events change, based on where we go geographically.”
In a nutshell, Wilson explained, “We wanted to take some of the negative impact of things that happened to the families, and turn it into something positive.”
The group has joined with various other organizations and medical treatment facilities to provide services that have fallen through the cracks for veterans. They also sponsor some of the children of the fallen special operators, including their college accounts.
Honorees for the 2021 ride included: Antonio Rodriguez, Moises Navas, Javier Gutierrez, Diego Pongo and Ryan Savard.
Winkler Knives of Boone is among eight primary sponsors of the 2021 ride, a small company that has had a unique and far-reaching relationship with the SOF Community for a number of years. (See more at winklerknives.com.)
How It All Began
According to the organization’s social media site, since 2014 CxC Foundation’s mission has been to celebrate, remember and honor members of the SOF community through the annual Ride for the Fallen. “We raise funds to assist members of the SOF community with medical treatments and practical expenses.
In the summer of 2014, while deployed in Northern Iraq, two active duty soldiers, Cris Valley and Jason Buck, dreamed up the Coast x Coast Ride for the Fallen as a way to honor the memory of their friend, Ryan Savard, who was killed in Afghanistan two years earlier.
What began as an annual cross-country motorcycle ride to honor a fallen brother is now a 501(c)3 charity that raises funds for issues affecting combat veterans, such as traumatic brain injuries and post- traumatic stress disorder.
Each annual cross-country ride honors Savard, as well as additional honorees from the Special Operations community.
As government programs continue to fall short in providing adequate healthcare to our elite warriors, the group challenges others to “make a stand with us, as we strive to make a difference.”
Coast X Coast ranks is filled with members of Special Operations Forces who have personally witnessed and experienced the shortfalls in long-term medical care for our warriors.
A chance to see and hear more from Wilson and a gold-star father, Roy Conrad, who just completed his third ride with the group, is available at the following link, recorded during the organization’s stop in Amarillo, Tex:
For more information and/or to make a donation toward this worthy cause, visit coastxcoast.org or find CxC Foundation on Facebook and Instagram.