DALTON- Since the SGT Jan Argonish Ride began in 2008, veterans and charities have benefited from generous contributions to honor the life of the Lackawanna County native.
Jan's Ride was created by Talia Walsh, after her fiance, Army SGT Jan Argonish, was killed in an ambush in Afghanistan in August 27, 2007 while serving in the Pennsylvania National Guard.
In addition to attempts to bolster the spirits of six brave young men injured during military service, funds raised during the first four years of Jan's Ride have been used to provide individual assistance to these men in regaining independence. The 5th annual motorcycle ride and event will take place Sept. 9.
Money raised from Jan's Ride has been donated to Homes for Our Troops; Argonish's favorite charities through the Scranton Area Foundation and individual veterans. Homes for Our Troops is an organization dedicated to building or adapting homes for injured veterans.
For six veterans, individual donations from Jan's Ride arrived in the form of monetary donations, care packages and new/adapted homes based on their needs. "We just want to make things as stress- free as possible," said Walsh. "We want to get them (Veterans) as normal and back to every day life as we can."
The 2008 recipients, Carbondale natives Army SSG Earl Granville and Army SSG Michael Kacer were the first Veterans to be assisted by the Ride. Granville was injured in Afghanistan and lost his left leg. To aid in his recovery, a care package filled with items such as an Xbox360, DVDs and other items was sent to him while he recuperated. Later funds were donated to Homes for Our Troops to enable Granville's home to be adapted for his daily life. Kacer suffered facial and internal injuries, in addition to the loss of his left arm as a result of a rocket blast. He received a care package from Jan's Ride to bolster his spirits that included items like Rock Band, DVDs and gift cards.
Army SGT Travis Squadrito and Marine SGT David Emery, the 2009 Ride recipients, received support which helped them live at home and provide for their families. Single father Sguadrito endured 14 surgeries after being forced to retire from service due to his injuries. Jan's Ride donated funds to help the member of the Army Military Police pay his mortgage and build a new swingset for Squadrito's daughter in Sweet Valley. Emery received funds donated by Jan's Ride to Homes for Our Troops to build a handicapped- accessible home specially equipped to assist him after the loss of both his legs.
Army Specialist Kodi Tyler was the 2010 recipient of aid from Jan's Ride. He suffers from brain damage that causes seizures. In addition to a right femur replacement, Tyler lost his left eye, and receives dialysis treatment. Jan's Ride donated money to Tyler's family to help purchase a vehicle that could more easily transport the Veteran. Last year's recipient was Nick Staback of Sturges. The 2009 graduate of Valley View High School, was stationed with an Army unit in Afghanistan in October 2011, when a land mine nearly cost him his life. After having both legs amputated, Staback is currently participating in physical therapy and awaits prosthetics. Jan's Ride offered him a monetary donation and sent a care package to help keep his spirits up during recovery.
This year Jan's Ride has a new route that will pass in front of Veteran Granville's home, which is being adapted for him through Homes for Our Troops.
Scranton VA groups participate at Jan's Ride to provide awareness about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Walsh will display a scrapbook of pictures from previous years of Jan's Ride and photos of Argonish. She said ride organizers remain in contact with all of the Veterans the Ride has helped.
New this year will be a photo booth and Operation Cookie. Operation Cookie sends homemade cookies to troops in December and Girl Scout cookies in the spring.
Walsh said the event has been very successful and gained support from the community, including other Veterans.
"It's a great experience for everyone," she said.
The late SGT Argonish's impact on his community is shown through the success of Jan's Ride. Through his memory, many have benefited and been offered help in their recovery and return to life at home after being injured.
Jan's Ride, which will take place rain or shine Sept. 9, begins at noon at the Dalton Fire Company Fairgrounds with food, drinks and raffles following at 2 p.m. Motorcycle registration takes place Sept. 9 from 8 a.m.-11a.m. Cars are also welcome.
Donations may be made out to: SGT Jan Argonish Ride, PO Box 256, Olyphant, PA. 18447
Anyone who would like to suggest a military veteran injured in the line of duty who might benefit from the help of funds from the Ride should contactTalia@sgtjanargonish.com or visit http://www.jansride.com for additional information.