Retiring naval officer bikes cross-country

After 27 years as a commander in the navy, Joseph Arleth will serve the armed forces by putting his feet to the pedals.

Arleth, executive officer at the University’s Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps, embarked May 6 on a 45-day bike ride from San Diego to Saint Augustine, Fla., to raise funds for Fisher House Foundation – an organization that provides temporary residences at major military medical centers for individuals receiving on-site care. Fisher Houses sit on 22 military bases across the US.

“I’ve seen people, sometimes military members, sometimes their family members, who wind up geographically separated from their family at the very time they probably need them emotionally the most. Fisher House helps provide a solution to that problem,” Arleth said.

He is marking his 27th year as a navy commander – and an impending retirement – in conjunction with the cross-country tour with his son, Marine Corps Reserve lance corporal Joseph Arleth Jr. A recreational cyclist, Arleth was inspired to merge his love of riding with his desire to give back to the Fisher House, an organization he said he feels close to after years in the military.

The Arleths raised $1,536 in 11 days of travel, more than 75 percent of their $2,000 goal, through online donations to their blog, “A Reinvention Tour.”

Arleth has served as a University professor and executive officer of NROTC for the past four years. He has been working toward his doctorate in public administration from the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration.

The commander’s son called it “virtually impossible” to train for the more than 2,000-mile trip spanning deserts, rugged terrain and dilapidated towns. Packing light was a major challenge faced by the Arleths, who had to decide on the minimum amount of food, water and supplies they could carry with them.

The Arleths will bike until mid-June, when they plan to reach their final destination of Saint Augustine, Fla.

The commander said he will continue to work toward his doctorate and hopes to eventually teach and apply his Navy skills to the classroom. Another bike trip, however, is less likely.

“It’s rewarding at the end of the day having a quantifiable measure of progress,” Arleth Jr. said. “In addition, the harder it becomes, it is that much more rewarding to finish the day.”

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