Dr. Robert Chen, a Staff Emergency Physician at the Carolinas Medical Center and a partner of Cabarrus Emergency Medicine Associates, will run, swim, and ride his bicycle in the renowned 140-mile Cairns, Australia, Ironman triathlon on June 14.
A retired U.S. Air Force Officer and a longtime avid runner, Dr. Chen is dedicating his efforts in memory of his close friend, U.S. Army Major Charles Robert (Rob) Soltes, O.D., the first Army optometrist to lose his life in action in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Major Soltes was killed by a vehicle-borne Improvised Explosive Device in northeastern Mosul in October 2004.
As an additional motivation for his Ironman challenge, Dr. Chen has already donated $1,400 to the Operation Peer Support initiative of the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA), a commitment of $10 for each mile. He challenges all interested parties to commit any possible amount per mile for the 140 miles he plans to complete.
The “Chen Challenge” seeks to heighten public awareness of the issues facing vision loss by supporting BVA’s efforts to assist newly blinded veterans. The organization began Operation Peer Support in 2006, bringing together veterans of recent conflicts who have lost their sight during the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts with those of the Vietnam, Korea, and World War II eras.
“Physical and emotional isolation can be a huge issue for those who have only recently lost their eyesight,” said BVA Director of District 6 Dr. Tom Zampieri, who has provided much of the impetus for Operation Peer Support during the past nine years. “Opportunities to connect with and mentor those who have faced these obstacles and overcome them, both at our conventions and in other settings, have brought some wonderfully positive results.”
Dr. Chen has been training for the Cairns Ironman for 18 months. He swam 2.5 miles on a lake two times during the past two weeks and within four days he completed two rides of more than 100 miles each.
Headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, BVA is an educational, charitable nonprofit (501c3) organization. The tax identification number for BVA is 530214281. The Association’s earliest beginnings occurred March 28, 1945 when a group of World War II blinded servicemen convened in a formal meeting at Avon Old Farms U.S. Army Convalescent Hospital near Avon, Connecticut, for the purpose of establishing an organization that would advocate on behalf of veterans who had lost their sight.
For more information about the Chen challenge or to make a pledge to support Dr. Chen, see the online flyer provided by the accompanying link or visit www.soltesmemorial.com.
A second event, also made possible by a close friend of Major Soltes and his family, will simultaneously honor the Army optometrist while helping blinded veterans in a fashion similar to that of the Chen Challenge. Tom Clarke of Irvine, California, annually organizes the Major Rob Soltes Memorial Golf Tournament. The event, to be held this year on October 12 in Irvine, also donates proceeds to Operation Peer Support. For more information about the Soltes Memorial Golf Tournament, call 949-438-0140 or again visit www.soltesmemorial.com.