I met Kiersten this winter when she was advocating for student veterans at the University of South Florida, Tampa.
Then, she was president of the USF Student Veterans Association.
Now, she’s taking the summer off – if you can call cycling across the USA a vacation. But it’s what she wanted to do for three reasons.
One – she had not taken a summer off since joining the Air Force at age 18. That’s more than a decade of summers fulfilling military assignments, college classes and civilian jobs. No breaks.
Her second reason: to raise awareness for her fellow student veterans who are reintegrating into civilian life and onto university campuses.
And third, it’s a trip she’d promised herself she’d make.
We talked yesterday, July 3, as she was crossing into Kansas. She’d just finished riding with student veterans in Pueblo, Colorado and chatting with veterans from another generation at the VFW.
I’ll have more on our conversation Friday.
For July 4th – I wanted to share how others are following Kiersten’s journey. One of biggest advocates and sponsors is the national organization, Student Veterans of America. Here’s their message for Independence Day.
By Michael Dakduk
Student Veterans of America
While many of us will be eating barbecue and watching fireworks today, on this Fourth of July, student veteran Kiersten Downs will arrive in Garden City, Kansas after cycling 100 miles from Colorado. Those 100 miles are just a fraction of her cross-country journey to raise awareness for student veterans, and there are still many more to go. 3800 miles in 64 days through 12 states. That is how long it will take this student veteran leader to ride from San Francisco to Washington, DC.
What drives Kiersten and her fellow veterans to serve, not only in the military, but in civilian life? Even after removing the uniform, veterans continue to demonstrate that they don’t shy away from a challenge nor compromise their belief in something greater than themselves. They return home to enrich classrooms, enhance communities, and enliven those around them.
This bold, courageous conviction in service links every generation of veterans. From the original patriots at Lexington & Concord to the all-volunteer forces of Iraq & Afghanistan, belief in service unites us all.
Kiersten’s story is inspiring, but it isn’t hers alone. Every day SVA Chapters across the country make a difference on their campuses and in their communities, not for personal gain or recognition, but to build healthier and safer environments for their veteran peers, and all those who will come after them.
Today, we ask you to salute those that have defended America for more than 235 years by investing in their education. 100 percent of contributions will be distributed directly to SVA chapters nationwide, and all donations made from July 4th to July 8th will help Kiersten Downs reach her goal of raising $10,000 for Student Veterans of America.