Cyclist on national tour for veteran rights dies in crash

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GROOM, Texas – A San Diego bicyclist on a nationwide tour to bring awareness to military veterans rights was killed in a traffic crash in Texas, authorities said Tuesday.

Stephen Michael Clift, 48, of San Diego was hit by a vehicle on eastbound Interstate 40 near Groom, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.  Clift was taken to a hospital in Amarillo, about 20 miles from the crash site, where he died Friday.

The traffic collision was classified as an accident and no charges have been filed, according to DPS Cpl. John Gonzalez.

Clift served in the U.S. Army and was on a cross-country bike ride called March Across America for Homeless Veterans.

Fellow veteran James Cartmill posted on Facebook that Clift's daughter Jordan said her "heart was broken."

Amarillo Globe-News reported Clift, known as “Pirate Mike” around San Francisco, arrived in San Francisco in 2011 and became an active member in the Occupy San Francisco movement.

According to friends Stephen Michael Clift gave up everything he owned voluntarily and was riding his bike across the country to raise awareness about veteran homelessness when he was killed. Friends from the Veterans For Peace in San Diego tell us they take comfort in the fact that he was doing something that meant so much to him.

“He’s always in a cheerful mood like in the worst situation… Homeless in a storm. He’s still smiling.” Said Army Veteran William Griffin.

William Griffin looked at video posted by his friend and fellow Army veteran Stephen Michael Clift.

“It was really heartbreaking, especially here with the Veterans for Peace, and activists that I work with – we’ve been talking about it all weekend. And it’s really crazy because he was riding a bike almost across the country," Griffin said.

YouTube video that Clift posted just last month showed him as he was riding through a hail storm in New Mexico. On his YouTube page Clift would post videos to update fellow veterans and activists about his arduous journey.

“He was one of the most empathetic, honorable people with some of the most highest morals that I’ve ever seen. And that’s one of the reasons I connected with him because he was willing to do what it takes to educate the public.” Said Griffin.

Griffin met Clift at a Veterans For Peace event in San Diego. He says the country has lost not only a soldier but a great American who truly understood the true costs of war.

“It’s a huge loss. It’s a huge loss to the veteran community. It’s a huge loss to the activist community It’s a huge loss to the whole nation.”

In his YouTube video, Clift signs off by saying he misses everyone. Griffin responded “Miss you too brother.

Veterans for Peace is planning to do a flag ceremony in Clift’s honor.


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  • xenubarb

    I have been across this nation several times by car, and I can say Texas is the worst. The absolute WORST!
    Sadly, it’s hard to avoid unless you take the northern route thru mountains and stuff. Horrible place to drive through AND IT TAKES FOREVER.

  • John Middleton

    Mike was a sweet guy. I hadn’t seen him for a long time, but I knew him for over 20 years. He will be missed. This country needs more like him.

  • Ignacio Sanchez

    So, Pirate Mike was an active member in the Occupy San Francisco movement.

    Couldn’t have happened to a “nicer” guy.

    Good riddance, garbage.

    • susanschuurman

      Michael Clift was not garbage. He spent 12 days in Albuquerque and he hung out at the peace center and in my office; i let him borrow a computer. He was dedicated to ending endless corporate wars. He was in tune with living and people and not the distractions of working a desk job to buy stuff we don’t really need. He had a big heart and we mourn his death in the Albuquerque activist community. He was very strong, strong enough to bike thru Salt River Canyon in Arizona, 3 miles per day the incline was so steep. He was not garbage. He showed by example that we must support our veterans when they return from war and not just use them and toss them away as if they were garbage. May the winds be always at your back, Michael Clift. Your short visit in Albuquerque had a big impact. We send our condolences to all your friends and your daughter. She is always welcome at the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice.

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