Gary West

Veterans in Blue 2017

Retired Col. Gary West poses with his bike in Bristow, Virginia, for the Air Force's 2017 Veterans in Blue series, Nov. 22, 2016. After his retirement, West biked 2,500 miles across the east coast of the U.S. to honor fallen service members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Gustavo Castillo)

Gary West retired from the Air Force in 2005 as a colonel. He flew more than 130 combat missions in F-15s and F-16s over Iraq and Bosnia. West says one of the things he loved most about the military was the camaraderie and being part of something bigger than himself. He fondly remembers his days as a squadron commander at Aviano Air Base, Italy. After retirement, West wanted to give back to the military community that had done so much for him. Trying to find a meaningful way to honor those killed or wounded while preserving American freedom, West mapped a 2,500-mile memorial bike trip along the East Coast of the United States that covered 16 states in 60 days. During the ride, West carried U.S. flags dedicated to fallen service members, one for each state on his trip, and organized flag-folding ceremonies for families of the fallen. West continues to look for ways to serve and has become the Chapel Springs Church Operations Pastor in Bristow, Virginia.