U.S. ARMY GARRISON - YONGSAN, KOREA -- Two credentialed medical providers at Brian Allgood Army Community Hospital (BAACH) completed the Korean Passport Biking Program Grand Slam in observance of Veterans' Day. Col. Erica Clarkson, The commander of 121st Combat Support Hospital/ BAACH and Col. Kelly Murray, United States Forces Korea (USFK) Surgeon accomplished this meaningful journey alongside other U.S. and R.O.K. military veterans as members of the Dragon Hill Biking Club, Yongsan.
Looking for opportunities for bike riding in Korea, Clarkson figured it wouldn't be easy for her to get around since she is not a Korean speaker. However, it couldn't stop her from taking the first step to the nearest subway station where she met Sang-il Kim who was also on the way to a bike riding trip and became her guide for the day. Soon Sang-il became a good 'Chin-gu (Friend)' of hers.
"Follow me." As a ROK Army veteran and a person who grew up in Korea after the Korean War broke out, he wanted to help Clarkson despite the language barrier. Ever since, they rode their bikes together almost everywhere in Korea, completing more than 2000km of biking trails.
It was Sang-il who introduced Clarkson and other military veterans to 'Korean Cross Country Cycling Road Tour Program'. They got their 'bike riding passport' issued by 'K-Water', Korea Water Resource Corporation to keep the record of their journey by collecting stamps that confirm the visits on the passport.
Recently, Clarkson and Murray have received their certificates of completion and 2 gold medals for completing the cross country ride from Busan to Incheon and completing all of the famous 4 River Trails in the 'Passport'. They also completed the ride completely around Jeju Island with the Dragon Hill Biking club, finishing the "grand slam" just in time for the Veterans' Day weekend.
"Erica is very energetic and unstoppable" said Sang-il Kim. "I feel lucky to be her friend and to be able to help her out because it makes me feel like in some way I'm repaying the generosity and selfless service Americans provide our country. I also feel stronger bond between us, Korean and U.S military veterans, especially when we meet people who thank us for what the militaries have done, side by side, for more than 60 years to keep the Freedom of this country."
"We never lost focus, even in bad weather" said Clarkson. "One thing that truly motivated me the most was everywhere we go, I met people who were so patriotic and appreciative of what the U.S. Army is doing to protect the peninsula and be strong allies."
"Through these biking trips, I started to witness the deeply rooted alliance between the two countries and that's when I started to carry the Star-Spangled Banner with me and took pictures with it when we stopped for a stamp." added Clarkson.
Clarkson shared the fellowship with Koreans on the road not only inspired her but also helped her better understand the Korean culture and communicate with the people she meets while working with the host nation hospitals as the Hospital Commander.
"It is my hope that I can also encourage other Soldiers to go enjoy these wonderful biking trails and explore Korea. It will broaden their view and also help them see how important what we do here in Korea is and that it contributes to the strong alliance" said Clarkson.