Pueblo Chieftain: Ex-Marine rides for comrades; Cross-country journey helps raise funds for families of wounded

By Loretta Sword | The Pueblo Chieftain | Chieftain.com | May 15, 2012

Battered by a bad fall in the mountains and bruised by corporate downsizing, former Marine Tim Tuomey got an idea during the short time he allowed himself some self-pity: He’d bike 3,355 miles across the U.S. to raise $50,000 for wounded Marines and sailors.

That was last fall. The unemployed technology specialist and part-time mountain guide spent five months healing while also testing the market for his idea, lined up sponsors and designed a Web page for Operation Awakening.

Semper Fi Fund supporter Tim Tuomey The Pueblo Chieftain
Tim Tuomey stands over his bicycle along Main Street Monday afternoon. Tuomey is riding from California to North Carolina to raise money and awareness for The Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund. Photo by Bryan Kelsen

Launch day was April 20 at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, Calif.

Tuomey arrived in Pueblo on Sunday, and will be back on the road early today. Roughly halfway through his journey to Camp Lejeune, N.C. — and his old unit, the 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division — the slightly sunburned Tuomey said he’s also just more than halfway to his fundraising goal.

“I’m pretty proud of that, given this is a oneman campaign,” he said.

When he was newly injured and contemplating his next move last fall, Tuomey said, he was grateful for his wife’s comfort.

He couldn’t help but think about wounded Marines and sailors who often spend months in military hospitals far from loved ones, who can’t afford plane fare or hotels to visit. “It’s not just the injured Marines and sailors who are hurting, but their families — their wives and husbands and their kids,” he said.

The Semper Fi Fund helps families of the wounded with travel expenses, or with overdue bills “or football cleats so junior can play football,” Tuomey said.

“It’s the devil in the details that gets these families down. Mom’s working two or three jobs to try to pay the bills and the kids are going in a downward spiral because their dad’s hurt and they never get to see him,” he said.

Tuomey’s journey will help families like that, and it’s reminded him of why he enlisted in the Marines back in 1987.

“It’s all the people I’ve met — the same people I signed up to protect,” he said. “They’re everywhere, and when it gets out what I’m doing, the floodgates of kindness just fly open.”

Anyone who’d like to donate can do so by logging on at www.opawakening.com, where a GPS program linked to a map of the TransAmerica Trail keeps followers updated on his real-time progress as he rides.

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