Retired four-star general leads 66-mile bike ride for veterans
by Alan Hodge
MINT HILL – During his time as commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, retired U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal led tens of thousands of military men and women. On Saturday, Nov. 6, in Mint Hill, McChrystal was at the forefront again – in a charity bicycle ride.
The event, dubbed “Honor the Warrior,” was a fundraiser for the North Carolina USO, or United Service Organizations, and the Military Lifestyle Charitable Foundation, a Huntersville-based organization, which supports military personnel disabled in the line of duty and their families.
More than 80 riders raised more than $26,000, event organizer and Mooresville resident Richard Cantwell said. Cantwell is a retired Army colonel, and he’s also a friend and former colleague of McChrystal and asked McChrystal to participate in the fundraiser supporting veterans organizations.
McChrystal retired this summer after President Barack Obama fired him as the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan. The firing came after Rolling Stone magazine quoted McChrystal criticizing the President and the war effort.
‘Such a good cause’
Following a presentation of the colors by the West Iredell High School JROTC, three separate groups of cyclists pedaled away from the Park at Fairview off N.C. 218 to cover distances of 66, 32 or 15 miles. The routes took in the Mint Hill area and ranged as far away as Cabarrus County.
True to form, McChrystal led the way for the 66-mile crowd.
Before departing on his bike, McChrystal, who is teaching a leadership class at Yale University, reminded participants of the dedication and sacrifice military members give freely.
“We as a nation have to think of ourselves as a family,” he said. “We need to take care of those who have gone off and served. When enough show they care, we will be the nation we want to be.”
McChrystal’s wife, Annie, who pedaled the 32-mile jaunt, added, “It’s exciting to do something for wounded service members. This is such a good cause.”
The McChrystals, who call Alexandria, Va., home, said this was their first visit to Mint Hill, but they have family in Charlotte.
The McChrystals weren’t the only ones who traveled to take part in the Honor the Warrior ride. Rider Paul Kopinski came from Rural Hall near Winston-Salem.
“I got up at 4:30 a.m.,” Kopinski said. A Navy veteran, Kopinski has a son in the U.S. Army. “I wanted to show support for our troops here and overseas.”
Retired Army veteran John Comstock of Matthews heard about the event on the radio.
“It’s a wonderful thing,” he said, adding that he hoped to meet McChrystal. “I hope I get to ride next to him.”
Also joining the ride was a contingent of 12 Special Operations soldiers from Fort Bragg, including one who is blind and rode on a tandem bike. Another tandem bike participant was Yvonna Golla of Charlotte, who lost her son, Marine Lance Cpl. Cliff Golla, during combat in Iraq in 2006.
“It was a nice experience, but my legs hurt today,” Golla said two days after the race.
The discomfort was worth it, she added. “I want to show that people care about our veterans,” she said. “I went for every mother who still has a boy overseas.”