WILMINGTON -- They are riding for those who gave everything in the line of duty. The Carolina Brotherhood ride began Monday morning in honor of an Asheville firefighter who died last year, Captain Jeff Bowen.
More than 30 firefighters from all across the state have begun a grueling 400 mile journey, all to raise money for the family of their fallen comrade. Many say the ride will be more emotionally challenging than it is physically.
One of the riders was Joe Hallam, a Asheville firefighter. He recalled the devastating day that he found out they had lost Bowen.
"A year ago, on July 28, at our fire department in Asheville, we unfortunately lost a guy in the line of duty," he said.
So, Hallam said he has a very good reason for trading his firefighters helmet in for a bike helmet.
"This is a bicycle ride that was designed to honor fallen firefighters, police officers and paramedics in the Carolinas," Hallam said.
Firefighters from across the state joined him for the Carolina Brotherhood Ride. It is a five day long journey and will be a hard trek that will bring up some very hard memories.
Asst. Chief Steve Mason with the Wilmington Fire Department was also taking part in the ride and described how Bowen sacrificed everything.
"It was a commercial structure fire in downtown Asheville ... Ran out of air, succumbed to his injuries," he said.
The group has raised tens of thousands of dollars for Bowen's family, and when they ride into Asheville, that family and the rest of his department will be waiting for them.
"Everybody in the Carolinas lost a brother, all of us did," Hallam said. "But we also lost a personal friend. He was literally one of the best firefighters you could ever imagine. He was that guy that pushed everybody harder. He made us all train. He made us all better just by being who he was."
Mason added, "Captain Bowen's death, being in Asheville in North Carolina, it really hurts even more because it's so close to home."
Hallam said, while it's painful to reflect on Bowen's sacrifice, it is an honor to ride for a man who was everything a firefighter could be.
"If he were looking down on us he would do it again, so that nobody else would have to," he said.
The group has raised more than $30,000 for the Bowen family so far. They plan to make the Carolina Brotherhood ride an annual event.