As the Communications Manager with Hope For The Warriors, I have the privilege of interviewing veterans often. Sometimes, I get a special opportunity to tell their stories in person. The most memorable moment to date came in Pittsburgh in May of 2023. 444 days after his leg amputation, retired Sergeant Major Kevin Bittenbender completed the Pittsburgh Marathon alongside his surgeon and a handful of other team HOPE members. The rain came down, and so did the tears as he crossed the finish line and received that medal.

After capturing this moment, I went to my hotel room, sat down, and sobbed as I held one of the medals that Kevin had given me after the race. “I don’t deserve this,” I told him. “You were a part of this, too,” he said. Six months later, I took a photo and sent it to Kevin before completing my first 5K. It’s no Marathon, but it’s a start. That’s what Kevin Bittenbender does for everyone who meets him. He defines resiliency and strength. He’s a true inspiration, and that’s why he was named HOPE’s Athlete of the Month for March.

I shared the news with him over a Zoom call during our Hope For The Warriors Podcast conversation, and I was shocked when he got emotional. “HOPE has done so much for me, and I wouldn’t be here to have that honor if HOPE didn’t come into my life,” he said. “I already had my course set. HOPE deviated that course.”

Every race Kevin runs or handcycles, he does in honor of the brave men he lost in Afghanistan He talks about Major Hank Officer, Master Sergeant Scott Ball, Sergeant Jan Argonish, and Staff Sergeant Cody Tyler often, usually incorporating the line, “Live a Life Worthy of Their Sacrifice.” Kevin is doing that every day. “There is never a time or event I’m doing that they’re not with me,” he says.

He’ll continue his journey with a major milestone in April when he takes on the Boston Marathon in his handcycle. “It’s been on my bucket list forever, even before my amputations,” he says. “It took me from the first time I started handcycling until now to qualify for Boston. There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears.” Some of the HOPE staff will be in Boston cheering him on as he makes his way through the course and crosses the finish line. “That is a bib and a medal that will be prominently displayed,” he says.

Kevin is an ambassador, an inspiration, and a beacon of HOPE. We are honored to be a part of his journey and thrilled to name him the Athlete of the Month for March.

Team Hope For The Warriors (Team HOPE) provides athletes of all abilities the opportunity to compete at various endurance events throughout the year.

Warrior Team members are provided race support, goal-setting opportunities, and social engagement to ensure they all feel the camaraderie, belonging, and connection of being part of a team.

All Warrior Team participants must connect to services with Hope For The Warriors before being added to the program.