More than 200 injured veterans rode bicycles past III Corps Headquarters last week as part of a 490-mile trip which ended in Arlington on Friday.
Participating in UnitedHealthCares Ride 2 Recovery Texas Challenge, the veterans received a warm welcome from hundreds of active-duty soldiers March 26. Waving flags, high-fiving cyclists and cheering, soldiers lined the streets of post for nearly a mile and a half until riders reached the III Corps building, where they were given an official welcome before they headed to Waco. The journey started in Houston.
“Iron riders, you ready to go?” said Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, commander of III Corps and Fort Hood, during his send-off speech. “Welcome to the Great Place again, and like I said last night, from now until the rest of your life you always have a home right here at Fort Hood in the Great Place.”
Milley said of the 200 riders, there were more than 100 Purple Heart recipients. Milley also referred to triple amputee retired Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Tim Brown, who was doing explosive ordinance disposal when he was injured, but has now ridden 500 miles on his personalized handcycle for the challenge.
Brown, who lives in Washington, D.C., is an avid cyclist. He said he does the sport for the enjoyment and confidence, but also because amputees need to be have an active lifestyle. Without one, he said, it is incredibly easy to lose mobility.
“Ride 2 Recovery has been such a tremendous help in my healing that I am always recruiting other soldiers to join me,” said Staff Sgt. Kennetta Gunns, a Fort Hood-based rider. “I ride my bike a lot on base and tend to walk around in my R2R riding gear. When people ask me why I’m wearing my R2R gear, I send them to the adaptive reconditioning program to help them on their journey of healing.”
About 60 percent of the participating injured veterans come through feeder program Project HERO, John Wordin said, president and founder of Ride 2 Recovery.
Project HERO programs and Ride 2 Recovery coordinators located at military installations and Veterans Affairs facilities nationwide help veterans train for the week-long challenges.
By providing community, physical and psychological rehabilitation programs which feature cycling as the core activity, Ride 2 Recovery seeks to help injured veterans heal.
“It’s incredibly awe inspiring,” said Col. Chris Garver, a III Corps spokesperson. “(The military) talks a lot about wounded warriors and taking care of folks, but the opportunity to get to be with them and talk about their challenges, to show them that the words actually mean something, you don’t get an opportunity to do that all the time.”