Veteran aims to see memorial before he dies

Community sendoff begins at 10 a.m. today (Sunday)

PORT ANGELES — A terminally ill Vietnam veteran and a Port Angeles friend will set out today on a cross-country motorcycle trip to fulfill his bucket list wish to see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. before he dies.

Bob Glaves, 63, of Alaska and Kelly Cook, 43, of Port Angeles will leave from the Clallam County Veterans Center at 216 Francis St., in Port Angeles at about 11 a.m. after a community sendoff beginning at 10 a.m. Cook said.

All are invited to the gathering.

Glaves, an Alaskan trucker, has been diagnosed with multiple types of cancer, Cook said, adding that it is thought that his illness was caused by chemical exposure during the Vietnam War.

He is expected to live for less than another year, Cook said.

“He has decided to take a break from treatment to do this trip,” she said.

On the first leg of the trip on Sunday, the two will be escorted by American Legion Riders to Port Townsend, Cook said.

All motorcyclists are welcome to join them.

If all goes well, the two riders anticipate reaching New Jersey in seven days. There the Blue Knights — a motorcycle club of law enforcement officers — will meet them and escort them to the memorial in D.C., Cook said.

Making that deadline depends upon many factors, among them the dietary restrictions and sleep schedule Glaves requires.

Cook and Glaves became friends in 2010 during a grueling two-week motorcycle race from Key West, Fla., to Homer, Alaska, Cook said.

The race was a fundraiser for veteran and Native American charities. About 800 started the race in Florida and 230 finished in Alaska, she said.

Neither Cook nor Glaves won the prize money of $500,000, but they both completed the course.

“Had I not met him” in the Yukon 10 days into the race, “I probably wouldn’t have made it to the finish line,” Cook said.

Since then, Glaves, who lives on the Kenai Peninsula, has lost a daughter in a plane crash and became ill, Cook said, while she married her husband Mickey and had a daughter, now 7 years old.

The two have remained friends. And when she heard his wish to see the memorial in D.C., Cook offered her help.

“Two of the unsung heroes in this are my husband and Bob’s wife, Mary,” Cook said. “They have been behind us all the way.”

Glaves and Cook are using the trip not only to fulfill his dream but also to encourage donations to Pennies for Quarters, a nonprofit created by Matthew Rainwater of Port Angeles to provide tiny houses for homeless veterans.

Cook is the newest board member for the group, which has purchased 7.5 acres of land on Devanny Lane just west of Port Angeles off Airport Road.

Now Pennies for Quarters is raising money to build up to 28 tiny homes for homeless veterans in Clallam and Jefferson counties.

As of late Friday, a total of 25 people had donated $1,100 to Pennies for Quarters, according to the Wall Before I Die website at https://www.facebook.com/wallbeforeidie/, where donations can be made.

More information can be found on the Facebook page, where those who want to contact them can leave messages, Cook said.

“If you or someone you know lives along that route, please send us a message, as we will need places to crash,” she says on the Facebook page. “If you know of any must-stop places along the way let us know as well.”

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Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].

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