"Community. Service. Integrity. Everything we do comes back to why we're here."
Madison, Wisconsin, USA, is the home of many unique entities. After all, Camp Randall Stadium, Bucky the Badger and Mac & Cheese pizza all share our hometown. Madison is also home base for the 115th Fighter Wing of the United States Air Force.
Stationed near Dane County Regional Airport at Truax Field, the 115th is an F-16 fighter wing tasked with Federal and State missions. Their primary mission is Federal, in which they organize, train and equip personnel to deploy for defense of the homeland and overseas contingencies operations. In their charge is one squadron of F-16s, including the 115th's primary weapon system, the F-16C+ "Fighting Falcon." At the state-level, 1,200 Madison-based Air National Guard personnel are ready to assist the state of Wisconsin and surrounding region in the event of a natural disaster.
Up until October's changing of the guard, the 115th was under the command of Colonel Jeffrey Wiegand. He received his commission in 1989 and is a distinguished command pilot with over 3,300 flying hours, including over 3,000 hours in the F-16. Colonel Wiegand was deployed to the Iraqi Theater of Operations six times, and led the 115th Fighter Wing Air Expeditionary Force Aviation unit into combat in Iraq twice.
As with all United States military branches, the Air Force lives by a set of core values, one of which is "Service Before Self". With that in mind Colonel Wiegand took on an unofficial, personal mission to deepen relationships between the 115th and the local Madison community. Camaraderie is a staple of any military unit, and he felt it was time to distribute this spirit of friendship with the local populace.
It was here he crossed paths with the founder and CEO of Saris Cycling Group, Chris Fortune, during a Boys and Girls Club of Dane County event. As active community members and leaders, the two struck up a friendship based on a shared interest in serving others – including our military.
"Chris and Sara Fortune embody our "Service Before Self" core value," said Colonel Wiegand. "They exemplify what it means to put service to others before yourself, and they continue to inspire my wife and I by the way the serve the community."
Those who know the Fortunes can back-up Colonel Wiegand's words. From the city-level of employing 200 Madison area residents to the use of materials sourced from Wisconsin and the surrounding geographical area to a deep commitment to American manufacturing, Saris Cycling Group's active support of Madison, Wisconsin, USA, is at the root of it all.
"Supporting our troops is just as important as everything else we do here."
"It's our patriotic duty to build here and employ people here," said Chris Fortune. "Supporting our troops is just as important as everything else we do here."
As hosts of the Madison Honor Ride for the last five years, employees from every department and management team have staffed, cooked and cycled in support of our nation's healing heroes. Last year's event alone raised $40,000 for Ride-2-Recovery's programs, including Madison's own Project HERO. However, the Fortune family's commitment to supporting our homeland in every sense of the word does not end there.
In 2012 Madison veterans were featured in a Danish Documentary called "Free the Mind." It highlighted work done by neuroscientist Dr. Richard Davidson at UW-Madison's Center for Healthy Minds. During the 80-minute film veterans participate in a study assessing the impact of meditation alongside preschoolers learning and practicing mindfulness. Grown men and small children alike exercise focusing on their breath to help cope with difficult emotions.
By the time the credits roll, many show marked improvements. This is a film that will grab you by the heart, and serves as a vivid reminder how important it is to continue to support those who have fought for our country. The Fortunes continue their involvement and strong support of Dr. Davidson's work.
"Saris supports our warriors," Colonel Wiegand said. "And we are proud to support Saris."
As a result of this mutual respect, we were privileged to have the rare opportunity to take photos of our indoor bicycle trainers alongside some of the most powerful aircraft around, F-16s. We're incredibly grateful for the ability to bring our staff, local photographer Nick Berard, and Army Sergeant and triathlete, Jason Madaus, on site to create these one-of-a-kind photos.
"Saris supports our warriors, and we are proud to support Saris."
At the end of the day, Saris Cycling Group is not just making stellar bicycle accessories. We're providing jobs, stoking the local economy, and supporting our surrounding community. For "Made in the USA" is about far more than manufacturing. It's about community. It's about service. And it's about integrity.