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Everyone has moments in life that they will never forget. Day three of the 3rd annual W100K was one of those days for me, as I found myself in the pack of cyclists pedaling the last miles toward the Bush’s Crawford Ranch residence. President Bush led the pack (no change from the other 65 miles) of wounded veterans, followed by a long line of supporters. Some of the wounded veterans were missing limbs, while others carried emotional scars. I could not help but be proud to be surrounded on that day in that place by those men -- who had overcome so much, who made the decision to not be defined by their injuries, and who had decided that life goes on. The last 200 meters of the ride were graced with a gauntlet of hundreds of supportive Texans welcoming the team with waving American flags and deafening cheers that almost, but not quite, drowned out the encouragement of the President as he cajoled the team to pick it up.
The journey that led me to the W100K started with another moment in my life I will never forget. On July 27, 2007 in Karbala, Iraq while conducting a mission, my unit became engaged in a firefight with insurgent forces. During that firefight, I was shot four times, subsequently losing my right leg to the injuries I sustained that night. My road to recovery stretched nearly two and a half years, but that journey taught me lessons that can only be learned through a crucible of that magnitude. I learned that emotional healing occurred when I interacted with others that had experienced similar trauma in their lives. I learned that life goes on, and that it is redefined by new normals. I marveled at the strength of the human spirit and saw tenacity demonstrated in palpable ways through the examples of others that still inspire me. This journey also caused me to reflect on my children and what I would have wanted for them if I had not made it home.
These lessons motivated my wife and me to start Gold Star Teen Adventures. The purpose of this Foundation is to enable healing and provide opportunity, mentorship and character development for youth who have lost their fathers in the line of duty. The Foundation does this through summer adventure camps that bring Gold Star children together from all over the United States. It is our vision to have an enduring impact in the lives of these children who have paid an enormous sacrifice and, like the W100K, create positive moments in their lives they will never forget.
The W100K is a special challenge and unique opportunity for some of our nation’s bravest warriors. If you or someone you know qualifies to join Major Solheim in participating in this unforgettable experience, learn more and apply for the 2014 W100K.
Watch Highlights from the 2013 W100K here:
Lieutenant Colonel Kent Solheim has served in the United States Army for more than 23 years and has deployed eight times in support of operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and on the continent of Africa. Solheim was wounded in July 2007 in Iraq when he sustained three gunshot wounds to his legs and one gunshot wound to his left shoulder. He lost his right leg as a result of his injuries.
Solheim began competitive road cycling when he was 16 years old. He raced for seven years, first as a Junior and then as a Category 1/2 cyclist. Among his many accomplishments are placing 4th in the Ontario (Canada) Junior Summer Games Team Time Trial, winning a Regional Cycling Championship, placing 5th in the Ontario Category II Provincial Road Racing Championships and competing in the 1992 Cycling Olympic Trials.
After joining the Army, Solheim began running competitively and was selected to compete on the Fort Hood/III Corps 10-mile running team. Over the next four years, he competed in a number of distance races ranging from 5km to a full marathon. Solheim also began competing in triathlons and adventure racing, winning the 8th Army Triathlon and numerous top three finishes in adventure races. He earned a spot on the 8th Army Ruck March Team, placing 2nd in the heavy division of the 2001 Bataan Death March.
Following his injury, Solheim returned to athletic competition to help in his recovery. He competed in sprint and Olympic distance triathlons, winning a Regional XTERRA Paratriathlete title, placing second in the 2011 New York City Paratriathlete open division category (3rd best time in the Below the Knee Amputee National Division) and qualifying for the Paratriathlete World Championships. He also earned a top three finishing time in his age group, competing against able-bodied competitors.
Currently, Solheim is the commander of 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group.
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