LARNED – Kevin Mincio’s incredible journey started with 9-11.
He worked a few blocks away from the World Trade Center as a vice president at Goldman Sachs in Manhattan when everyone’s world changed forever on Sept 9, 2001.
“9-11 changed me forever – and it changed me for the better,” he said.
Mincio’s time after the disaster was invested in restoring his company’s computer systems. But he could never get the image of nearby rescue workers and everyday people searching for answers.
“What I experienced -- the sights, the sounds, the smells, all of the emotion -- ultimately, that’s what made me realize I had to enlist.”
Ten years later, Team Jesse Foundation co-founder Mincio will return to Ground Zero following a 4,200-mile cross country bicycle ride. They spent time in Larned Saturday and Sunday before heading east Monday morning.
U.S. Army veteran Mincio and Matt Sauri, an entrepreneur and philanthropist, are cycling across America to provide education and help for families of fallen soldiers and to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of 9-11. The 95-day, 4,200 mile journey began at the gravesite of SSG Jesse Williams in Santa Rosa, Calif.
Before SSG Jesse Williams was killed during combat operations in Iraq, he and Mincio served together as members of the 5-20 Infantry Regiment, which has the battalion motto of “Tant Que Je Puis,” that translates, “To The Limit of Our Abilities.”
Mincio and Sauri have chosen this as The Ride theme to motivate them in remembrance of those who gave it all for their country.
The bikers’ web site is http://teamjesse.org/ride/.
All donations that are received during this event will provide education and support to families of fallen soldiers.
Mincio weighed his options carefully before deciding on a cross-country bicycle trip starting from Jesse Williams’ hometown.
“I’ve been a cyclist a long time,” said the New York native. “I had a desire to bike and see the country and this was a perfect way to accomplish everything we wanted.”
The twosome will surpass the 2,000-mile barrier Tuesday and reach the halfway mark of 2,100 miles east of Wichita sometime Wednesday.
Every day, Mincio hears stories that resonate. He enjoys hearing stories from veterans from all eras.
“We’ve heard an interesting reflection of people who have served their country,” he said. “A couple towns back, a family heard the news that someone close to them had been killed in Afghanistan. It was a reminder there is still a war going on and they are in harm’s way.”
They’ve been well received in Kansas with stops in Garden City, Dodge City and Larned so far. They’ve especially enjoyed the reliable cell-phone coverage.
“Kansans has given us an outstanding response,” Mincio said. “They’ve embraced our mission and encouraged us along the way. That has been great motivation for us.”
Their support vehicles have provided ample water for the 100-degree heat they’ve faced.
“We start early in the morning, which helps,” he said. “Headwinds and high winds have been more of a factor than the heat.”
Mincio was on active duty for three years and served his other five years as a ROTC instructor. He first gained publicity for his journey one year after he enlisted. His story at the end of basic training was profiled by Rich Blake of ABC-TV. A subsequent follow-up story in 2010 told the story of Jesse’s Foundation.
On April 8, 2007, Staff Sgt. Jesse Williams, 25, was killed by sniper fire in Baqubah, Iraq. Later that year, Mincio, with help from a close friend, Matt Corry, organized Team Jesse to raise money for a trust fund benefiting his fallen friend’s young daughter Amaya. Mincio has made Team Jesse a bona fide 501(c) nonprofit to help other surviving family members of fallen veterans.
“I told my experience as a soldier and I used that opportunity to mention the 10-year anniversary of 9-11, a date I knew would motivate me to do something special,” he said.
There were a moment when Mincio thought he’d made the wrong decision to enlist. But Sgt. Russell Ballew appointed Mincio to be platoon leader, when he sensed Mincio’s leadership skill.
“Basic training is a tough time for a lot of people and I realized I was human like everyone else,” he said.
Duering his service, Mincio met former NFL player Pat Tillman, who became a legendary figure. He transported Maj. Gen. David Petraeus on an Army Stryker. He met Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker during a congressional hearing.
“Pat Tillman was a man who knew exactly how I was feeling,” Mincio said.
Mincio said he’s proud of his commitment to enlist.
“That decision was a short-term emotional decision in my life, but it’s had an incredible impact on me,” he said. “It’s helped me prioritize my life and help other people along the way. When you serve your country, it puts you in a community of people that is unique. Their service to their country goes well beyond themselves.”