Through Thick and Thin: Focus on Veteran Encouragement and Restoration

Through Thick and Thin: Focus on Veteran Encouragement and Restoration

Episode 014 of #StillServing: The VFW Podcast, “Through Thick and Thin: Focus on Veteran Encouragement and Restoration”

Camaraderie comes in many forms, from combat deployment to live-fire ranges, or field exercises. To ruck marches to morning PT sessions and back-to-back hour-long death by PowerPoint mandatory annual training. Service members almost always had a battle buddy there soldiering through it together. But, civilian life is much different and for some of us, the loneliness and lack of connectivity with others make even the most mundane aspects of life sometimes hard to bear. That is why there are many on this side of the DD-214 who have dedicated themselves to walking side-by-side with veterans through thick and thin, ready to encourage and help bring restoration to our warrior spirit. We speak with three men who have dedicated themselves to that cause today.

During this episode of the #StillServing podcast, Host Rob Couture speaks with Stuart Taylor, President & CEO of the Allied Forces Foundation who describes the challenging, yet rewarding events his charity puts on for veterans from both sides of the pond. Ken Falke, Founder and Chairman of the Boulder Crest Foundation, talks about his retreat setting in Northern Virginia and how it’s helping veterans and their families cope with past traumas and feel whole again. And extreme sports enthusiasts and veterans advocate Ricky Folse shares his passion for bringing awareness to the plight of homeless veterans by way of a long-distance cycling trip.

Enjoy the Podcast On:

Ian Rivers’ Row Sentinel Challenge

One man rowing a small boat 3100 miles across the Atlantic with only the stars to guide him home

In May, former SAS soldier Ian Rivers will leave New York and row the 3100 plus nautical miles to the Isles of Scilly.

Ian will be unsupported and will be using only the sun, the stars and a sextant to guide him.  He will not have access to GPS.

This crossing will test human endurance, navigation and seamanship to the absolute limit.

Nobody has ever managed to complete an unsupported solo row of the Atlantic using the Northern Route.

He will be rowing for between 9 and 12 hours per day and estimates that the crossing will take him between 60 and 90 days.

Ian, 55 from Hereford, has led a life of adventure.  He joined the army after becoming inspired by the Falklands War. He fought in theatres across the world and was a member of 22 Special Air Service regiment for more than a decade.  

In December 2012, whilst working for an American news network, he was kidnapped in Syria.  He escaped his captors and managed to find his way to safety using only natural indicators.

Ian, who’s just become a grandfather, is a qualified mountain guide and was part of the British Army West Ridge Everest challenge in 2005.

He is a qualified ocean yacht master and has represented Britain in the age group European and World championships.

“I’d describe myself as an adventurer,” he said.  “I’ve always been drawn to the ocean, ever since I was a kid. It frees you up. I’ve wanted to attempt this challenge since I was in my 20s.”

“I’m looking forward to the calmness, the equilibrium of being alone for a long time.  If I’m honest, I don’t really like my own company so it’s the ultimate challenge for me to be on my own for that long.”

Ian is raising money for two charities; the SAS Regimental Association’s Sentinels programme and St Michael’s Hospice in Herefordshire.  He is aiming to raise more than half a million pounds for the charities.

The Row Sentinel Atlantic crossing has only been possible thanks to the support Ian has received from his sponsors. His platinum sponsors Grenade are the market-leading sports performance and active nutrition brand.  The Spectra Group is a leading global provider of Cyber Services and Satellite communication, Hexegic are leading cyber security consultants and Valbruna is a leader in the production of rustproof construction steel and metal alloys.

For more information please contact [email protected] or phone 07966 546068

Ian is available for interviews until May 10th 

Further information:

The route

Nobody has ever managed to complete an unsupported solo row of the Atlantic using the Northern Route.

Ian will not have the support of the trade winds used for other Atlantic crossings. He expects to face a tropical storm every two weeks.  Sentinel is a 27 foot long ocean rowing boat so it’s designed to be rowed and not sailed. 

The original North Atlantic route, known as the classic route, was first crossed by Frank Samuelson and George Harbo in 1896. For 114 years they held the record for the crossing – 55 days and 7 hours.  In 2010, Leven Brown and his crew of Livar Nysted, Ray Carroll and Don Lennox crossed from New York to St Mary’s in 43 days and 21 hours. This remains the record to this day.

John Ridgeway and Chay Blyth made the crossing in 1966 and the first solo crossing was completed by Tom McClean in 1969 using the shorter route from St Johns’s in Newfoundland to Blacksod Bay in County Mayo in Ireland. He completed it in 71 days.

Tracking and racing against Ian

Ian will not have access to GPS but there is a GPS tracker on the boat so we will be able to see where he is.  The system has been designed by the Hereford firm Kinetic6, the world leaders in secure telecommunications and cyber security.

Ian will be sending his estimated coordinates through every day so we will be able to map where Ian is and where he thinks he is. This will be accessed via

Running alongside Ian’s journey is a rowing challenge for schools and clubs across the UK.  They will be racing Ian each day. This is being organised by the Remigo Ergo Sum (“I Row Therefore I Am”) Concept2 virtual rowing team.