Ex-Marine to bike across country to help Iraq war vets
By SCOTT GUTIERREZ
After leaving the Marine Corps in 2005, Tyler Boudreau wrote a book about his seven months in Iraq that's been regarded as a "true face" of the conflict.
He became a vocal advocate for veterans, even writing an article in The New York Times on whether the military should award the Purple Heart --for servicemembers wounded in combat -- to those afflicted with post traumatic stress.
Tyler Boudreau But Boudreau, 38, wanted to carry the conversation about veterans further. So, the captain who spent 12 years in the Marines planned a cross-country bike ride, starting in Seattle and ending in his hometown of Northampton, Mass. The goal: To talk openly about the war in communities along the route with vets and non-vets alike, and to help society understand what vets go through. He calls it "The Other Side" tour.
On Monday, he stood with his bike atop the tallest hill in Gas Works Park, where several members of a local chapter of Veterans for Peace gathered to send him off on the 3,200-mile journey. Some biked with him during the first leg of the trip and he is inviting others to do the same along the way.
He wasn't much of a bicyclist until now, but envisioned having a challenging obstacle to motivate him.
"I felt like bringing something physical into the equation," he said Monday. "When you're in the military, you're always doing these big physical events -- you're hiking a hill or you're in a war. Once you get out, that goes away."
Boudreau, who served in the infantry and took part in the first siege of Fallujah in 2004, resigned his commission the following year over concerns about the war and "deep affection" for his fellow Marines, according to his Web site. He wrote about his time in Iraq in his memoir "Packing Inferno: The Unmaking of a Marine."
Boudreau said he needed this trip so he could continue his own self-reflecting. He chose to start in Seattle, where he spent a few days speaking and signing his book, because it is literally at the opposite end of the country.
"It all oriented around the idea of riding across the country to get home. I wanted that to be the focal point. And when I'm riding, or working my legs strenuously up hills, I wanted all that to be about getting back home in a better state than I was," he said.
He also wants to see more of the country.
"As veterans, we talk and think about defending this country. But many of us haven't seen that much of it," he said.
He plans to reach Northampton by Sept. 15 and cross a dozen states or so on the way. He planned his first stop in Monroe.
His in-laws are spending the summer with his wife and children to help take care of them while he's away, he said. Boudreau and his wife have three boys, ages 7, 5 and three months. He delivered his third son in the couple's front yard, he said.
"It wasn't intentional. We were headed to the car but the baby was coming. So we had a lawn birth," he said. "It made the local paper."
He's been fortunate to have his wife's support, he said.
"I've had a lot of support from community members and my wife has been tremendously patient with all of my outbursts and irritability," he said.
George James, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and registered nurse at the Veterans' Administration Hospital, rode with Boudreau during some of his first leg out of Seattle.
"I think this is absolutely perfect and that's why I am here. Anything that brings information and educates the public about the consequences of war is vitally needed," said James, a member of Veterans for Peace.
To see more of Boudreau's itinerary, click here.
Scott Gutierrez can be reached at 206-448-8334 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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