World T.E.A.M. Sports Inspires Successful Cross-Country Ride by Marine Veteran

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Inspired by World T.E.A.M. Sports' Sea to Shining Sea cross-country bicycle ride, retired Marine Corps Major Jennifer Marino rode 2,590 miles in 77 days from California to Virginia. Along her Gold Star Ride, she met with parents of active duty military who lost their lives during their service.

Van Brinson and Major Jennifer Marino.

World T.E.A.M. Sports CEO and President Van Brinson, left, rode with Marine Corps Major Jennifer Marino during her Gold Star Ride. Photograph by Van Brinson.

Jennifer’s trip is a testament to the impact that one person can have on the lives of others.

On October 25, retired Marine Corps Major Jennifer Marino rolled her bicycle onto the grounds of the National Museum of the Marine Corps, completing her 77-day Gold Star Ride. Inspired by World T.E.A.M. Sports’ Sea to Shining Sea cross-country rides with disabled veterans, as she rode across America, Marino met with parents of active duty military who lost their lives during their service.

“Jennifer’s trip is a testament to the impact that one person can have on the lives of others,” said Van Brinson, World T.E.A.M. Sports CEO and President, who rode with Marino during a North Carolina stage. “We at World T.E.A.M. Sports are proud to have been a small part of her ride.”

Retiring from 15 years of active duty in early August, Marino traveled west to California to begin her ride. At the end of her ride, she reported it was the people who defined her cross-country journey.

“I had planned to meet with about 52 families before we departed on the trip,” Marino recalled, “But I had a chance to meet with groups of families along the way, as well as added visits once the trip was underway. I think I probably met somewhere between 80 and 90 families, including lots of dads and some siblings as well.”

Visiting 20 states from California to Pennsylvania and covering 2,590 miles from her August 10 departure, Marino sometimes rode by herself, followed by her mother in a support vehicle. Often, she was joined by a companion or small group, the largest being an October 23 ride in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. “We attended the Beirut Remembrance Ceremony at the Beirut Memorial that morning, and then we did a 30-mile group ride in honor of the 30th anniversary” of the 1983 bombing, said Marino. “We had 17 riders in our group that day, a mixture of active duty service members, veterans, and civilians from the Jacksonville community.”

Spending evenings and mornings across the country with Gold Star Mothers and their families, Marino learned the stories of the servicemen and women who gave their lives in active duty. Often, she shared these stories through her Facebook ride page.

“If we stayed with a family the night before, it generally took us several hours to say goodbye, usually after breakfast,” Marino recalled. “Saying goodbye to these families after bonding with them was tremendously difficult, and rather emotional. It was never quick.”

Following a day of riding, Marino would try to arrive at a family’s home prior to dinner, to avoid having the family wait for her. “I never got enough rest on this trip… there simply were not enough hours in the day,” Marino said.

Raising funds to cover some of her ride expenses, Marino is donating a significant amount to the non-profit American Gold Star Mothers, Inc., the national organization of mothers who lost a son or daughter in active military service. “I’d like to be able to give at least $2,000 to the organization.”

With her journey across America now complete, Marino began a new position October 31 as the Executive Director for the Boulder Crest Retreat for Military and Veteran Wellness in Bluemont, Virginia. “This retreat is a place for wounded warriors and their families to come and spend some time away from a hospital setting, in a serene environment that enables respite, recreation, relaxation, and reconnection with one another. It’s my dream job.”

Marino also notes she has plans to write a book about her Gold Star Ride in the coming months. “But right now, I need a break!”

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Richard Rhinehart
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