NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — It was a weekend full of emotions and remembrance.

An Army veteran making a cross-country bike ride stopped in Normal Saturday to honor a hometown hero and fallen friend.

Kyle Bigue served with Bloomington native Sgt. Anthony Maddox in Afghanistan. Maddox was killed in the Ghazni Province in 2013 following multiple explosions. Bigue was first on the scene to try to save his friend’s life, but ultimately Maddox succumbed to his injuries.

Not far behind him were Colin Lineberger and Mike Doody, veterans who formed The Ultimate Sacrifice Foundation (TUSF) in Maddox’s memory.

Bigue departed from Boston, MA on April 29 on a 3,700-mile bicycle ride to Coronado, CA called the Warrior Ride, set forth by Ultimate Sacrifice Foundation to bring awareness to veteran mental health and facilitate the group’s mission to send veterans to treatment. The organization was formed in the wake of the Afghanistan pullout in August 2021.

Bigue came to Normal to pay respects to Maddox and his family, approximately one-third of the way into the Warrior Ride. The initial plan was for Bigue to be escorted by law enforcement down the ‘Maddox Mile’, a stretch of I-55 from exits 171 through 169 named for Maddox.

Illinois State Police said that plan was too dangerous, so instead Bigue was escorted by law enforcement, fire trucks, and veterans on a six-mile-stretch from Towanda to Medici in Uptown Normal along historic Route 66.

At Medici, members of TUSF, Bigue, and the Maddox family exchanged emotional words.

Bigue said he felt a sense of closure seeing Maddox’s family in person.

“It’s been very emotional. I’ve never met them ever before, this is my first time. Pretty crazy to figure out how he grew up, and they are such a loving family. It is such a blessing to meet them,” he said.

Bigue and TUSF set off to St. Louis following the event, where Bigue threw the opening pitch at Sunday’s Cardinals game.

The next stop is Golden, Colorado and then Coronado, CA, the final destination. All funds donated to TUSF go towards getting Bigue to the finish lane and further the group’s mission.

The suicide rate among veterans (31.6 per 100,000) is twice the public suicide rate (16.8 per 100,000), based on a 2021 study from the Department of Veteran Affairs.