By Seaman Apprentice Cody D. Beam
Defense Information School
Todd P. Cichonowicz stands by for a profile photo. (Photo by Seaman Apprentice Cody D. Beam)
In Fair Haven, Vermont, the Cichonowicz family would visit King’s Kastle, a camp on Lake Bomoseen. This is where Todd P. Cichonowicz, an avid motorcycle enthusiast, started his lifetime hobby.
He was 12 years old when his father got a minibike for him on his birthday, said Cichonowicz, now a Basic Mass Communication Specialist Course instructor at the Defense Information School on Fort George G. Meade, Maryland. The bike was intimidating at first. Then after riding it and realizing the low-powered bike was manageable, the ride was exhilarating.
This is what started Cichonowicz’ love for motorcycles.
Cichonowicz’ love and experience riding motorcycles has brought many benefits to his life.
“From that point on I would acquire, after that one, my own bike,” said Cichonowicz, now a broad-shouldered man with brown eyes and a grey beard. “I would buy larger and heavier bikes that were more challenging to ride.”
Motorcycles have allowed Cichonowicz to break language barriers.
While stationed in Japan, he went on multiple group rides, said Cichonowicz. One time in 2006, he went with a Japanese motorcycle group, and they went to the base of Mount Fuji. Only one member out of the motorcycle group could speak any English.
“I’ve done rides in Puerto Rico, when I was stationed in Puerto Rico,” said Cichonowicz, a veteran and former U.S. Navy senior chief petty officer, about a trip in 2003. “Half the guys in that group didn’t speak a lot of English either. You’re just meeting with people that have a common love or passion for something.”
His passion has also helped him overcome the personal challenge of public speaking.
When Cichonowicz was stationed in Japan in 2004, he had to go through a course approved by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation that is required of military personnel, regardless of experience. During this time, the instructors were looking for volunteers to help teach the course.
“I went through the course with the intention of becoming the motorcycle safety rep for the ship,” said Cichonowicz, who was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) at the time. “I wanted to help set up classes just for the ship’s company when we were in port.”
Cichonowicz went through the intensive, two-week course to be a motorcycle safety instructor. Afterward, Cichonowicz set up multiple basic and advanced-level courses.
He was excited about the opportunity to teach, said Cichonowicz. He was bringing his level of experience to those who needed guidance.
Cichonowicz brings meaning to his hobby by supporting rides. One of his most recent rides was Rolling Thunder in 2016.
Rolling Thunder is a memorial ride through Washington, D.C., set up by veterans of the Vietnam War to pay homage to those missing or killed in action.
People come from all over the country, said Cichonowicz. Some people ride two or three thousand miles just to get here.
“He was instrumental in pulling together a group of us from
DINFOS who want to contribute to that,” said U.S. Army Col. Martin
Downie, the commandant of the Defense Information School and a fellow motorcycle enthusiast. “He actually designed some magnets that had the names of fallen troops and public affairs and visual information officials. I still have one of those magnets on my motorcycle.”
It’s a long day, said Cichonowicz. The riders are exhausted and just want to go to bed. What is nice about it is people are hanging out with about 500,000 other veterans and their spouses. It’s nice to be around people that that have a similar outlook.
Riding has allowed him to view things differently because when people ride, their senses are much more open, said Cichonowicz. People are seeing more than what is through the windshield. It makes people appreciate life a little more. It’s exciting. It has added to his overall experience in life.
Cichonowicz has had an interest in motorcycles since a young age, and it has brought him joy in many places, from the dirt roads at a camp in Vermont to Mount Fuji in Japan.
Cichonowicz said he plans to keep riding until he can’t walk anymore.