Monday, May 17, 2010

Ill Gulf War Veteran on Cross-Country Bike Trek to Honor Fallen Soldiers, Dies Enroute

(NORMAN, Okla. – Associated Press)  — A disabled Gulf War veteran who left Norman earlier this month [March 2010] on a hand-propelled bicycle headed for Washington, D.C., to honor fallen soldiers has died.

Kevin Baker suffered a seizure Friday morning in his sleep at the home of some friends in Lake Charles, La., said Norman resident Diane Zellner. He died in an ambulance en route to a local hospital, Zellner said she was told.

Baker, a 39-year-old Navy veteran, had a history of seizures, stemming from a traumatic brain injury, she said. He also had been diagnosed with lymphoma.

Baker had planned to ride his bicycle from Norman to Washington, D.C., and Gettysburg, Pa., to Marseilles, Ill., to support a new flag designed to honor fallen members of the military, the Norman Transcript reported March 8.

He planned to fly the Honor and Remember Flag from his bike and encourage people along the way to sign a petition urging Congress to adopt the flag as a new national symbol by passing HR Bill 1034.

“He made a valiant effort to promote this new flag, the Honor and Remember flag for the Gulf War dead, and unfortunately it took his life, too,” said Jim Zellner, who also knew Baker.

Baker was injured while serving as a firefighter in Kuwait in the 1990s when a Scud missile struck his barracks. Diane Zellner said he had seemed healthy enough to undertake the bike trip.

“He was doing well, so this kind of took us by surprise,” she said.

Baker struggled with his health, but what people admired about him was how he moved forward despite his health problems and disabilities, she said.

“He struggled every day, but he lived, he was going to do what he wanted to do,” she said.

Before he died, Baker made several blog posts from the road that can be read at the Honor and Remember Web site. His last post was Wednesday near Sherman, Texas.

He said the weather was raining and 34 degrees, so he said the Honor Guard from Louisiana would pick him up and take him somewhere warmer.

“He was doing something he loved,” Diane Zellner said. “This was something he was passionate about.”

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