• July 28, 2014

Cheering for the cyclists

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Posted: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 12:00 pm

By Colleen Flaherty

Fort Hood Herald

Lt. Col. Patty Collins was biking to work at Fort Bragg, N.C., in 2006 when a car struck her and took her left leg below the knee.

But the lifelong cyclist didn't let the injury stop her. Within six weeks of the accident, Collins was back on a bike - as she was Thursday during the annual Ride 2 Recovery Texas Challenge's stop at Fort Hood.

Collins, 42, was among the first to reach III Corps Headquarters from the Shilo Inn, where the group of wounded warrior cyclists spent the night on their six-day, 450-mile trek from San Antonio to Arlington.

Although many of the riders used recumbent bicycles or other adaptations, Collins used none, simply attaching a shoe clip to the bottom of her prosthesis. "And I race against people with two legs," said the Team Army cyclist.

Collins' performance despite her injury makes her something of a role model for other riders, but she said they also motivate her. "I come to these events, and I'm so inspired by their personal stories and positive attitudes."

Collins, commander of Fort Hood's 57th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 11th Signal Brigade, participated in the inaugural Ride 2 Recovery from Washington, D.C., to North Carolina in 2008 when it had 20 riders. The nonprofit organization now plans seven rides each year around the country. This year's Texas ride was capped at 200 riders.

Ride 2 Recovery supports physical and psychological rehabilitation programs for injured veterans featuring cycling as the core activity, according to information from the organization. From indoor spinning training at military installations to multiday, long-distance rides, it helps injured veterans heal through the challenge of cycling long distances using hand cycles, recumbents, tandems and traditional road bikes.

The Texas ride, which kicked off Tuesday at Brooke Army Medical Center, was sponsored by United Healthcare, with contributions from the USO and other organizations. Riders stopped in Waco Thursday night and reached Arlington on Saturday.

Among other riders was former Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, the first living Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam War. Giunta is credited with saving the lives of members of his 173rd Airborne Combat Brigade squad team out of Vicenza, Italy, in Afghanistan in 2007.

Also riding was Fort Hood Staff Sgt. Kenneth Griffith, who will compete in the annual Warrior Games next month at Fort Carson, Colo. His left arm was shattered by a sniper's bullets in Iraq in 2008 during a deployment with the then-3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment.

Griffith will compete in the games' "ultimate champion," a pentathlon-style competition that includes cycling. The staff sergeant, currently assigned to the Warrior Transition Brigade, was the Army's top finisher in the event last year.

To preserve strength for the games, Griffith completed Thursday's leg of the ride in lieu of the entire event but said it was inspirational to ride alongside other wounded warriors.

"It's good because you're hearing what other people have gone through and talking about that," he said, adding that his recruiter joined him for the day.

Brig. Gen. Joseph DiSalvo, deputy commander of III Corps and Fort Hood, thanked the riders for stopping at Fort Hood and inspiring the adults and schoolchildren who lined the post's roads to cheer them on to Waco.

"I guarantee that in the 20 seconds (you ride by), you'll be providing years of inspiration to those kids," he said.

In addition to the 19 soldiers from Fort Hood's Warrior Transition Brigade who competed in the Ride 2 Recovery, dozens of soldiers from the brigade stopped by to watch the riders circle the III Corps flagpole before riding east off of post.

Pfc. Beatrice Burr, who uses a wheelchair due to a neurological condition, said she was inspired to begin bike-riding after seeing so many possible bike adaptations.

"I was a very active person," she said, adding that before she became ill, she was an avid long-distance runner. "But I think maybe the bike would be a good place to start (back up), so I can keep moving."

Continuing, she said, "If they can do it, then I can do it, too. I'm not as bad off as (some of them) are, so it gives me hope."

Contact Colleen Flaherty at colleenf@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHFortHood.

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