By Alicia Roberts

GLENSIDE, Pa. (CBS) — A local Marine veteran from New Jersey rode his bicycle coast-to-coast to support a fallen comrade from Glenside. On Saturday, he made a $2,000 donation to the VFW that welcomed him home three weeks ago. He’s hoping his lessons learned along the way will help others facing tough times.

“I feel very short next to you,” Kelly Currie said.

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This is Kelly Currie and Marine Sgt. Nick Novotny.

“He texted me in February asking me permission to do this,” Currie said.

Until last month, the pair had never met. They were connected only through Currie’s son, Cpl. James Currie.

“This guy comes over to me and he’s asking me a bunch of questions,” Novotny said.

Novotny was stationed in Hawaii back in 2017 when he first met James.

“His connection he had with everybody no matter who they were, no matter what walk of life they were coming from, he had that same connection with everybody,” Novotny said.

Novotny says it was that connection that made James Currie’s sudden death such a shock to everyone in the Third Radio Battalion.

On May 3, 2020, 21-year-old James Currie died from alcoholism, something he used to cope with mental health struggles so many veterans face.

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“It was tough because, with COVID, we really didn’t have an official farewell for him,” Novotny said.

Nearly a year later, Novotny had retired from the Marines but couldn’t shake the memory of his friend.

“Maybe we can do something, maybe there is a way that we can bring his story, bring his legacy back to life,” Novotny said.

And that’s when the bike tour came to be. Novotny started on June 25 in Tillamook, Oregon, riding sometimes hundreds of miles per day through mountains and farmlands.

“Yeah, Kansas was worse,” Kelly Currie, James’ mother, said. “He definitely did not like Kansas.”

And although this ride may be over, Novotny hopes the message will carry on.

“The Marine Corps have a very famous saying called “embrace the suck, and I’ll be honest with people, there were parts of the ride that weren’t that awesome,” Novotny said. “It’s a lot of tough days, a lot of climbing, so you just got to kind of embrace what you’re in.”

To help others facing difficult times and others who served.

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“That was the big thing for this bike ride, it’s OK to not be OK,” Kelly Currie said.

Alicia Roberts