To call it "shifting gears" would be an understatement.
Robert Richer was used to avoiding the spotlight, as were his colleagues who worked at the CIA. They saw themselves as the silent professionals. But when a suicide bomber took the lives of several of Richer's ex-colleagues last year in Afghanistan, the former No. 2 man in charge of clandestine operations at the CIA decided to sport spandex and launch the mission of his life over the weekend with a cross-country bike ride called "Pedaling for Patriots."
In December, the suicide bomber killed five of Richer's colleagues as well as CIA security contractors and a Jordanian Intelligence official. The victims were preparing to meet the man who, unknown to them, was working as a double agent for the bands of al Qaeda hiding in a remote region along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. When the man arrived at the remote Afghan base, he detonated his explosives as everyone gathered to greet him. Many of the victims died instantly; others sustained serious injuries.
The agency added their stars to the Memorial Wall at its northern Virginia headquarters in June, but otherwise, there has been little fanfare for the fallen.
Which is why Richer's mission is so unique. Richer and his wife, Kim, are on the third day of biking some 3,200 miles across America from Jacksonville, Florida, to San Diego, California, to help raise the profile of, and money for, the CIA Officers Memorial Foundation, an organization that helps to pay for schooling of kids of fallen officers.
In a single deadly moment last December, the lives of five CIA officers and two CIA contractors were gone. The flash of a suicide bomber had singlehandedly delivered the largest loss of life the agency had experienced since the 1983 Beirut Embassy bombing. It took time for the world to discover the identities of those killed on the remote base known as Khost in Afghanistan, mainly because of the clandestine nature of their work. So you might think its odd that a former high-ranking agency official would put a public face on their deaths. And you'd be right.
Having known and even trained some of the victims of that attack, former Associate Deputy Director for Operations Rob Richer decided he couldn't just sit back and grieve alone. FULL POST