Six Division West soldiers rode in the Killeen-to-Waco leg of the Ride 2 Recovery’s Texas Challenge on Thursday.
“It’s truly a great experience to have all these people together and to feel the camaraderie,” said Sgt. 1st Class Connie Burt, of Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, Division West, who regularly competes in triathlons and other athletic events. “It’s just a great ride to be on; it’s one of the best rides that I have.”
The Ride 2 Recovery program, which partners with the Military and Veterans Affairs Volunteer Service Office, uses cycling to help wounded military veterans overcome their mental and physical injuries.
More than 200 cyclists, including many veterans who started riding for therapy, participated in Thursday’s 66-mile ride. All together this year, the Texas Challenge stretched over six days and more than 300 miles, beginning in San Antonio on Monday and ending in Fort Worth on Saturday.
After leaving Killeen, the riders wound northward through Fort Hood, where they were greeted along the streets by cheering, flag-waving soldiers, civilians and schoolchildren.
“It’s like refilling your motivation tank,” said Sgt. 1st Class Randall Copiskey, of the division’s 1st Battalion, 337th Aviation Regiment, 166th Aviation Brigade. “You come around a corner, and there’s a whole line of kids; it’s awesome. Going through Fort Hood and seeing my old unit and some of my old soldiers and my current leaders on the side of the road, cheering me on, that really makes you feel good.”
Copiskey is the only Division West soldier riding all six days of the Texas Challenge.
Staff Sgt. Jimmie McCormack had just gotten off work at 4 a.m. and could have been at home sleeping instead of riding his bicycle.
McCormack, a trainer/mentor with 3rd Battalion, 395th Armored Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, who rode the Killeen-to-Waco leg last year, rides with two local cycling groups, Team Army and Team Roadkill. He said he has seen for himself cycling’s therapeutic benefits.
“We spend weekend rides with some of the wounded warriors,” McCormack said. “I enjoy riding with fellow soldiers and wounded warriors. You find out about people, where they come from, who they really are, what problems they have, what issues they’re having at home, on long rides.”
Normally, Division West Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald Orosz simply rides his bike every weekend. The Ride 2 Recovery is one of the first cycling events in which he’s ever participated, he said.
“To support the wounded warriors is the biggest reason (I’m riding), and to show my support for them and all that they’ve done for our country. It was a great event,” Orosz said.
Chief Warrant Officer-3 Daniel Hodge, a trainer/mentor with 2nd Battalion, 291st Aviation Regiment, 166th Aviation Brigade, who has been in the Army 20 years and served three tours in Iraq, chose to ride to honor many people.
“I have a couple friends from (Operation Iraqi Freedom) 1 who didn’t make it back, and a couple other friends who got hurt,” Hodge said. “So I guess, in a little way, it’s kind of like I have a lot of those guys in the back of my mind.”
Hodge, who started cycling seriously when he was 12 and has continued for 25 years, said he appreciates how the Ride 2 Recovery organization combines cycling and supporting veterans.
Capt. Eric Dunkley, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, is also an avid cyclist, and he also wanted to support wounded warriors and the Ride 2 Recovery organization.
“I’m really into bicycling, so it was just kind of a perfect combination of reasons to participate in it. I’m really glad I did,” Dunkley said. “It’s really humbling to ride with ... service members who have been wounded severely.”