100 miles, one kayak paddle at a time

The American Legion’s 100 Miles for Hope challenge inspired Michael Bush to dust off his kayak and paddles.

“It had been a couple of years since I’ve actually had my kayak out,” said Bush, commander of Joseph L. Davis Post 47 in Havre de Grace, Md. “I’ve had the kayak for 10, 12 years. Prior to that, I’ve been canoeing all my life, in the Boy Scouts, or with my 20-year-old son, who is an Eagle Scout.”

Bush accompanied his son on frequent canoe and kayak trips with the capstone being a six-day, 75-mile canoe trip in a wilderness area in northern Minnesota. “That was a trip of a lifetime.”

American Legion National Commander Bill Oxford issued the 100 Miles for Hope challenge to encourage participants to be active while also funding the Veterans & Children Foundation (V&CF). From Aug. 3 through Veterans Day — 100 days — Oxford challenged American Legion members to walk, run, bicycle, ride a motorcycle or cover that distance any way they choose.

It is nearly the midway point but there is still time to register at Emblem Sales and complete the distance. For a $30 registration fee, participants receive a tech shirt, sign for posting on social media and a welcome e-mail that contains a link to a downloadable PDF of a certificate of accomplishment that they can customize, print and display.

About half of the registration fees go to the V&CF to support service officers and military families in need.

The fundraising component was just the inspiration Bush needed.

“It’s a fantastic cause — and that’s something that drew me to The American Legion,” said Bush, who joined the Army in 1981, was commissioned eight years later and retired in 2005 as a major. “Look at the Four Pillars and all the good things The American Legion has done throughout its history for the military and veterans. One of the things I’ve been trying to focus on at the Joseph L. Davis post is to reach out to start doing a lot more with veterans and active-duty military. We have an absolutely beautiful property that is right on the river.”

Post 47 overlooks the Susquehanna River, situated between the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground and the Perry Point VA Medical Center

On Sept. 12, Bush and three other kayakers set off down the river on a 10-mile, three-hour trip, finishing at Post 47.

“The 10 miles is challenging but I’ve done stuff in the past that is longer and more challenging,” he said. “It was a beautiful morning. The tides were in our favor and we had a strong tailwind the whole time. We made good time.”

Bush has motivated others at his post to join the 100 Miles challenge, including two women veterans. One is a retired Air Force veteran who is an avid runner and the other is a Navy veteran who is kayaking the century distance.

“They have exceeded my total so far,” said Bush, who as of Sept. 14 had kayaked 68 miles. “I’ve got a little bit of catching up to do.”

But it’s not a competition. The challenge focuses on raising donations and wellness.

“I’m really enjoying the trips,” he said. “It’s such a beautiful area around the Susquehanna River. There is a lot of wildlife and some of the mornings when I am out by myself, it is just extremely peaceful and very enjoyable. It’s an opportunity to reset the mind from the trials and tribulations of the workday.”

For more information about the challenge, the registration page and a helpful FAQ section, visit legion.org/100miles.