In our series, A More Perfect Union, we highlight examples of people coming together to show that what unites us is far greater than what divides us.
Kaye Jordan and Michael Perich both lost their sons serving with the U.S. military in the war on terror. Strangers at the start, the two spent this summer biking across the country to raise awareness for families who've experienced similar pain.
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Their cross-country ride is part of an effort by the nonprofit Legacies Alive to support Gold Star families, those who've lost loved ones in service to our country, reports CBS News' Dana Jacobson. The group gets its message out through extreme challenges like this cycling trek from San Diego to New York City, with daily rides totaling as much as 100 miles.
"I think about Austin all the time. He's on my necklace. And when I'm going up hills or I'm having a hard time I just kiss his dog tags. And he motivates me," Jordan said.
"I think of my son almost every day anyhow. But this is just a little bit more, you know," Perich said.
For three months, Jordan and Perich have battled hills, muddy trails and the desolate open road. They both lost their sons to wars. The memories of them are fueling this solemn journey.
Strangers at the start, the two are now bound by a common goal: a 3,700-mile cross-country bike ride to raise awareness for Gold Star families and honor all who made the ultimate sacrifice.
"It's almost like our kids' hearts are in us and we are riding because, you know, they can't live," Jordan said.
In 2010, just 96 days into his first deployment in Afghanistan, Jordan's son Austin, a private first class in the U.S. Army, was killed by an Afghan solider.
"I didn't believe it. I didn't wanna believe it. I grabbed his picture in the house and I just fell to the floor, you know. A lot of denial sets in – and for a year and a half, I isolated myself. I didn't want to be around people," Jordan said. "I knew that's not what Austin would want me to do."
The death of Perich's son is classified.
"It was just – it was a nightmare. It's still been a nightmare. You know, it'll always be a nightmare," Perich said.
Asked how this ride has helped, Perich said, "It's just – you can talk, talk freely about, you know, your kids. But it's been a good journey. It's been really healing. And we got to meet a lot of good Gold Star families that just want to talk about their kids."
Connecting with those families, making sure their children aren't forgotten, is central to Jordan and Perich's mission.
More motivation has come from a member of the support team, Chris Ring. The decorated former Navy SEAL completed his own challenge two years ago when he swam the Mississippi River to honor the fallen.
"I love being out here as long as I can because it's, like, I want to protect 'em as much as I can. I don't want them to be uncomfortable at all," Ring said.
"He's got his little ways of going up, 'here, here's your water." Like, 'here, you need to drink this,' you know, or making sure he just takes care of us," Jordan said.
"There was no quittin' the Mississippi River for him, so there's no quittin' for us either," Perich said.
Perich said having each other on this ride is "about the best help you can get."
"You know, you could go to any doctor and they give you pills, they talk to you and – but until you talk to somebody that's gone through it, that's the best thing you could do," Perich said.
The two were total strangers going into this but now, Jordan said, "we're family."
"Not a family we wanted to be a part of, and for the worst reason we're family, people who've lost – our children. But without each other, it would, it would be hard to survive, 'cause we get each other, we understand each other," Jordan said.
The pair will finish their challenge ride Saturday morning in New York City at Ground Zero.
This trip to New York was one Jordan had planned to take with Austin when he got back from Afghanistan. She says she's just taking him in a different way now.
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