Earlier this month I had a chance to participate in the Edible Pedal bike ride in Northern Nevada. It was one of the most physically challenging things I have done in a very long time. That, and the fact that it was for a great cause made it one of the most fulfilling things I have done as well.I rode on behalf of Team Red, White and Blue-Nevada, a fantastic new organization dedicated to serving veterans, service members, and their families around the country. The mission of Team Red, White and Blue is to enrich the lives of wounded veterans and their families, primarily through three activities: Personal connectivity between veterans with invisible wounds and citizens in the community where they now live, reintegration through physical fitness, and the galvanization of esprit de corps and team membership like many veterans remember from their time in the military. I was proud to ride to help spread the word of the amazing work they are doing here in Nevada and throughout their incredible volunteer network around the country.Team Red, White and Blue founder Mike Erwin, currently a psychology professor at West Point, is fond of encouraging the members of his community to “get out of their comfort zones.” For the returning and reintegrating veteran, comfort zones can be an enormous hindrance. In their comfort zones, these veterans might not seek to better themselves by addressing health concerns through existing resources, they might not be using their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to better themselves and continue their education, or they may not be looking for a job. All of these stand in the way of their full reintegration into the broader civilian society and could wind up costing them greatly.Breaking out of these comfort zones could take the form of many things. A veteran or family member could do so by seeking help, changing negative habits, pursuing employment, or seeking education benefits that make it easier to find a job in the future. It could also simply be accepting a physical challenge that they might not have believed they could have accomplished.For me, the 100-mile bike ride through Carson Valley was about as far outside of my comfort zone as one could imagine. Until this ride, my greatest distance was only a few dozen miles, and I had never even dreamed of trying to ride up Kingsbury Grade. Because of this bike race, and because I had been encouraged by others to get out of my comfort zone, I decided to break out of my comfort zone, and to do so wearing the Eagle jersey of Team Red, White and Blue.I was not surprised to find that the ride itself was absolutely incredible. Starting out at the Bowers Mansion Regional Park in Washoe Valley and continuing through Carson Valley, the early morning in the middle of September was stunning. Stops in Carson, Genoa, and Gardnerville were great and necessary before the ride up Kingsbury Grade. There were a few scary moments, and more than a few challenging ones too, but for the most part I am just proud of being able to ride through the first 94 miles of the race or so, before accepting that the ride had gotten the better of me.Much more important, maybe most important, I know that I accomplished the goal of Team Red, White and Blue. Mike Erwin and his colleagues around the country would be proud to know that I had gotten out of my comfort zone, that I had challenged myself in ways I didn’t think possible, and that I had gone further than I had ever gone before. I know that I’ll do the ride again next year, and when I do, I’ll bring other service members, veterans, and their families with me. • Caleb S. Cage is the executive director of the Nevada Office of Veterans Services, appointed by Gov. Brian Sandoval. You can read his blog at http://veterans.nv.gov/blog.
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