AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — Four months after hopping on a bike and setting off for a cross-country trip, Eben Engler rode through the gates of Augusta University. Dozens of friends and family members waited eagerly for him, holding ‘Welcome Home’ signs.
In September, Engler began his journey in San Francisco. After leaving the Air Force, he debated what he wanted to do with his future. The Augusta native decided to raise awareness about veteran suicide. While serving, he saw how service members struggled with mental health first hand.
“The military doesn’t last forever,” he explains. “The situations you’re in, especially if you’re depressed or having thoughts of suicide, come and go.”
Engler biked more than 3,000 miles through nine states. He made several stops along the way and documented his journey on social media. He raised more than $10,000 for Mission 22, an organization that supports the veteran community.
“When I started out, it seemed like an infinite amount of time and distance ahead of me.”
Engler eventually made it to Augusta. It was only fitting that he met his family and friends in front of a statue at Augusta University that his late mother created.
“There are a few places in Augusta where my mom left a legacy. I couldn’t think of a better place.”
With smiles on their faces and tears in their eyes, Engler’s loved ones welcomed him home with open arms.
“It’s something very cool that not a lot of us get the chance to do,” John Duggan, Engler’s friend, said. “The fact that he didn’t just do it for himself, he did it for others, is very powerful and moving.”
Thousands of miles later, Engler says he would make the trip again, but with some friends.
“After a while, it adds up and takes a long time. You can literally cross the country on a bicycle if you give a little bit every day.”
Engler will finish his trip by biking to Charleston, South Carolina. He plans to arrive by New Year’s Eve.