WarrenSeptember 12, 2012
Military man completes bike ride from North Carolina to Warren
By Maria Allard
C & G Staff Writer
WARREN — “I can say for certain it’s good to be home,” a tired Zachary “Zach” Welsing told a crowd of about 20 family members and friends who welcomed him home the evening of Sept. 5.
Welsing had logged nearly 750 miles on his bicycle from Fort Bragg, N.C., a journey that took him three weeks. The bike ride was his unique way of exiting the U.S. Army after serving five years in the service, including one year in Iraq.
Cheers, hugs and tears awaited the 2007 Center Line High School graduate as he biked in, with mom Terrie throwing her arms around him the minute he stopped and his grandmother Joan Babbitt sneaking in her own bear hug.
“Oh, my gosh,” Terrie said. “You look great.”
“Let’s see those calves,” Joan said.
Then came hugs from everyone else, including dad William Welsing, who presented his son with a T-shirt from his childhood of the Veteran of Foreign Wars Camp Trotter in Newaygo.
“He looks fantastic. He looks good,” said William, who celebrated his 50th birthday the same day of his son’s return. “Good kid. He’s a good kid.”
Zachary — of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division — left his Fort Bragg Army base Aug. 16, hitting North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio and Michigan before his final destination. His essentials included a sleeping bag, water, a Nook tablet, snacks, an iPad and a change of clothes.
“It was great,” the Raven drone pilot operator said. “It’s hard to describe it.”
Zachary pedaled his way through new experiences as he met all kinds of people on the road. He kept a log on his Facebook page for others to follow along and stopped in a different city every day. There were many highlights of his journey, including a visit to Ravenswood, W. Va., Aug. 30, where he suffered a broken back tire. He had to wait a bit before it was fixed.
“I went to the local bike repair shop. The sign said ‘closed,’” Zachary said.
Zachary knocked on the door anyway. The owner, Mike, closed the shop because his dog, Daisy, went into labor that evening.
“She ended up having 11 puppies,” said Zachary, who helped in the delivery. “They all lived.”
“I think it’s wonderful,” grandpa Clifford Babbitt said of Zach’s biking adventure. “He’s seeing the country right up close.”
“It was nerve-wracking,” Bill said, tears stinging his eyes. “I appreciate everyone who helped my son get home. This has restored my faith in America. He met total strangers, and they treated him like his own.”
While waiting for her son’s return, Terrie carried a pair of scissors in her pants pocket. She cut the yellow ribbon from a tree in her front yard minutes after Zachary made it home safely.
During the welcome home, the crowd bowed their heads momentarily at Zachary’s request to remember the thousands of military members who made the ultimate sacrifice.
“I think it’s important we remember the heroes who didn’t get to do what I just did,” he said. “I just ask for a moment of silence.”
Some who gathered on Terrie’s front lawn — amid an American flag and welcome home sign — included friends Nicki Diehl, Meaghan Kelley, both 2009 CLHS graduates, and CLHS 2010 graduate Trevor Kelley.
“It didn’t surprise me he did it,” Meaghan Kelley said. “Zach’s an adventurist. He always takes us on an adventure.”
Zachary’s godmother, Donna Bednarczyk, also was there to greet him.
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