Cyclists pose with actor Gary Sinise at the National Memorial Parade in Washington, D.C., May 25, 2009, before Virginia's "Ride 2 Recovery" Memorial Challenge bicycle ride. Fifty cyclists, including 35 wounded warriors, participated in the six-day, 350-mile bicycle ride across Virginia. Courtesy photo
By Sharon Foster
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 10, 2009 – Many cheering and excited Virginians lined the route of the “Ride 2 Recovery” Memorial Challenge bicycle ride, in which 35 wounded warriors took part last month.
This is the second year the ride was held in Virginia.
“The event was very successful,” said John Wordin, executive director of Ride 2 Recovery. “Participating in this ride changed the lives of the wounded warriors in a very positive way. To see their transformation over the course of six days was truly inspiring.”
After leaving the National Memorial Parade here May 25, cyclists traveled through Manassas, Fredericksburg, Ashland, Williamsburg, Jamestown and Hampton on their 350-mile bicycle journey before reaching Virginia Beach on May 30. The cyclists were greeted with a concert featuring 2008 American Idol winner David Cook.
Other notable supporters of this year’s Virginia Ride 2 Recovery Memorial Challenge included Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, actor Gary Sinise and country music artist Lee Greenwood.
In each Virginia town the cyclists passed through, the American Legion Auxiliary provided support, including community fundraising dinners. The USO used its traveling canteen to provide rest stops.
“We were delighted to participate in this bicycle ride for our wounded warriors,” said Jeff Hill, U.S. regional vice president for the USO. “One of our programs is Operation Enduring Care. We sponsor many outings with wounded warriors to boost their morale. They have always been our highest priority. To see these servicemembers start this bicycle journey, some full of doubt, then to see them finish with a great sense of accomplishment and achievement was incredible.”
Fifty cyclists, including the general public, participated in the ride. One wounded warrior who had turned to cycling as a way to boost his physical and mental rehabilitation was exhilarated.
“My experience was awesome,” said Army Sgt. Juan Alcivar, who was shot in the leg by a sniper in Bagdad and lost his right femur. “I didn’t think I was going to make it. All the new friends I made helped me. Now, I love to ride my bike. It was just awesome.”
The Ride 2 Recovery organization hosts bicycle rides for wounded warriors across the country every year. The Ride 2 Recovery California Challenge will take place Oct. 4 through Oct. 10, starting in San Francisco and ending in Los Angeles. The group plans a Ride 2 Recovery Florida Challenge in December.
The troop-support group raises funds for “spinning recovery labs” and outdoor cycling programs at warrior transition units across the country.
“Our mission has always been to improve the health and wellness of wounded warriors by providing life-changing experiences for them,” Wordin said.