A Marine in Vietnam, Bill Bradfield already served his country.
Forty years later he continues giving, this time helping service members who have type 2 diabetes due to Agent Orange exposure.
Diagnosed in 2006 with the disease due to the defoliant, Bradfield will leave Cadillac July 12 on a journey to raise money and awareness about war's fallout.
The 8,000-mile motorcycle adventure through 29 states and 48 major cities will benefit the Diabetes Research Institute. The funds raised in this 33-day odyssey — hosted by Bradfield's From Sea to Shining Sea Motorcycle Adventures, Inc. — will help the institute battle a disease that affects 27 million Americans total.
"I decided that I wanted to do something that bestowed honor amongst all veterans of all wars that will hopefully take the shape of an ongoing tribute to all of the men and women in America that make our freedom possible," said Bradfield, a member of multiple veterans organizations as well as the Patriot Guard Riders and Rolling Thunder.
"I was a part of all veterans groups for many years but I'd done nothing but send money in the mail," he added. "I decided it was time to give back and do something big."
The Cadillac resident conceived of the journey last August being part of the honor guard escorting the traveling Vietnam Wall from Reed City to Cadillac. He founded From Sea to Shining Sea in Cadillac, setting up in January a board including many Vietnam veterans and disabled veterans.
As he planned the journey, which he estimates will feature a changing roster of 50-60 riders, Bradfield has received tremendous support from the Cadillac and veteran community.
A benefit to help From Sea To Shining Sea's effort will be held Saturday at Stone Circle, situated about 25 miles north of Traverse City. Poet bard founder Terry Wooten will donate 75 percent of proceeds at the weekly summer gathering of poetry, stories and music.
Wooten learned of From Sea to Shining Sea from Larry Lelito, of Williamsburg, a friend, veteran and longtime Stone Circle participant. Wooten realized that Stone Circle provided a natural venue for a fundraiser to help.
"I'm not a veteran but I've done a lot of work in the past few years with veterans and the Elders Project," Wooten said. "I stood up against the (Vietnam) War but I never stood up against the guys who fought it."
Bradfield will be riding a unique vehicle across the country and back: a "snow cycle," as he calls it. This custom creation is a snowmobile converted to a three-wheeled trike. The vehicle logged thousands of miles during a 2010 benefit for the Diabetes Research Institute.
Bradfield led 53 other riders that year on an epic adventure from Sault Ste. Marie to Tok, Alaska, raising $102,000 in the process. The route covered five states, five Canadian Provinces and four time zones. The riders traversed some of North America's most scenic and treacherous landscape, with temperatures dropping to 30 degrees below zero.
The average age of participants: 62 years old.
"'Dream It, Plan It, Do It' was our motto," Bradfield said of that earlier trip. "That persevered as it will again during From Sea to Shining Sea."
For more information, see www.stssmadventures.com or call Bill Bradfield at (231) 862-3562.
A Marine in Vietnam, Bill Bradfield already served his country.
Leelanau Birding Festival runs May 29-June 2
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- Leelanau Birding Festival runs May 29-June 2