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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