By Todd Martin
Special to the Daily Herald
Standing and cheering for recovering wounded soldiers is second nature at Meadows Elementary School at Fort Hood.
On Thursday, the school's staff and students lined the roadway in front of their school to cheer and congratulate hundreds of bicycling combat veterans.
For the third year, the students held up banners, waved American flags and delighted in the inspiring imagery of colorfully-clad bicycle riders stopping traffic to make their way across the Army installation.
The Ride 2 Recovery began in San Antonio and ended in Arlington, covers 350 miles and honors and features soldiers recovering from combat injury.
The beauty and awe of the spectacle was not lost on some of Fort Hood's younger residents.
"We're supporting the wounded warriors who came back from Iraq," said fifth-grader Katie Curry, who clutched her tiny American flag.
"I think they are heroes and we should honor them," she said, pointing out she was impressed to see recovering soldiers she knew put their lives on the line for their country.
"It's wonderful for these kids to see soldiers and to know how important they are in their lives," said Virginia Richardson, a physical education teacher at Meadows.
"The kids were excited. They see the strength and will to go on. They understand we're in a war and people come back and overcome obstacles," Richardson said.
Principal Sara Watson, new to Meadows this year, said the support of the bike ride is a natural one for the school, where 98 percent of the students are part of military families.
"Our military parents and our Adopt-A-Unit give to us and we want to give back," she said. "We talk about community and it's important for the military community to see we support them."
"It was cool they put their hands out," said fifth-grader Jacob Chinchilla, describing the cyclists riding close enough to the sidewalk to high-five students.
"It's encouraging because it shows that even if you lose an arm or leg you can overcome obstacles," he said.
"It was cool," agreed fifth-grade classmate Jonathon Rourke. "We could see people without limbs and people with them supporting them. It was inspiring."
After the ride, when Richardson reentered the building with her class, she pointed out to students that the soldiers fight for Americans to ensure our right to wave our country's flag.
"They still have the stamina to do their exercises and ride their bicycles," the physical education teacher said. "They trained so they could walk again. It makes me proud to see them."