A Lafayette County deputy sheriff is concluding a 110-mile solo bike ride and march today to honor the memory of two Southwest Wisconsin soldiers who died in Afghanistan.
Michael Gorham, 50, of Benton, began his 90-mile bike trip Monday, The trip included a 20-mile march Tuesday.
The ride and march are in memory of Army Sgt. Jakob Roelli of Darlington, who died in September 2011, and Staff Sgt. Jesse Grindey of Hazel Green, who died in March 2012.
Gorham is the cofounder of Team Lafayette, founded by a group of Army veterans to honor the memory of Roelli and Grindey.
While honoring two of Lafayette County’s soldiers, Gorham sought to raise funds for the special trauma first aid kits for the Monroe Police Department. In addition to being a Lafayette County deputy, Gorham is an Advanced EMT with special training in what is called Tactical Emergency Medical Support.
“What I think is great about this event is that here in Lafayette County people are being brought together to honor two outstanding young men who died for their country and at the same time completing a benevolent act which one day might save a life,” said Gorham.
The Monroe Police Department and the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Office have joined together to form an Emergency Response Team. In 2011, Gorham purchased similar first aid kits for the patrol deputies at the sheriff’s office. The kits care from North American Rescue.
The kits contain tourniquets, gauze, emergency trauma bandages and chest seals. The kits are designed for gunshot wound victims, but have other applications. Recently, Green County Deputy Sheriff Scott Ellefson used a tourniquet on a victim cut by a chainsaw. Officers are trained in this level of immediate medical care. Gorham teaches TECC care to local agencies in southwestern Wisconsin.
Gorham said he has received pledges to pay for the medical kits from James Mankowski of JBM Patrol and Protection, a private security agency in the Dane County area. Gorham said Mankowski, a lifelong friend and colleague, offered to donate $15 per mile during his trek.
Others have also stepped up to assist Gorham. Timothy Young of American Family Insurance of Monroe and Alex Douglas of Al’s Towing and Recovery have also provided pledges. Jenna Bocklund, of Crafts for a Cause, Wiota offered assistance later in the year to assist with getting smaller agencies in Green and Lafayette counties the kits.
Gorham wanted to give donors flags, as a remembrance of their donations and to pay homage to Sgts. Roelli and Grindey. Bryan Hopkins, Courtney Fox and Fran Phipps-Grise all stepped to donate flags. Others, like the Blanchardville Fire Department, EMS Captain Rainelde Raymond and retired special deputy James Kostohrys offered logistical support during the trek.
The first leg of the three-day journey started in Benton on Monday and then to Belmont jumping on the Cheese Country Trail to Gratiot. On Tuesday, Gorham marched with a pack from Gratiot to Monroe. On the final day, today, Gorham will ride up the Badger State Trail to Madison, finishing at the Law Enforcement Memorial at the State Capitol.
Gorham said it was unintended, but the journey follows much of his law enforcement career since 1990.
Team Lafayette began as an idea between Gorham and James Johnson, a Darlington firefighter and close friend of Roelli. They were later joined by Dean Johnson, James’ brother; both are Iraqi War vets. Gorham also served in the Army during peacetime.
The genesis of Team Lafayette came during the Tough Mudder run, in which both Gorham and James Johnson have participated.
“In the spirit of who Jakob and Jesse represented as a people, I am hoping it grows beyond that to a charitable organization which supports veterans and public safety personnel in southwestern Wisconsin,” said Gorham. “I was inspired by the efforts of Anthony Anderson and Tom Voss, of Veteran’s Trek last year when they traveled through Lafayette County. Maybe this journey that I am on will one day turn into an event annually to honor Jesse and Jakob and help others.
“That is the spirit of Team Lafayette; the mission is about the man.”
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