Gerry Wayne Padgett II poses with his five-year old service dog Labradoodle, Bayley. Gerry is able to ride because of Bayley's ability to detect Gerry's seizures.

Kim Stock | Herald

FORT HOOD — Soldiers and their unit flags lined T.J. Mills Boulevard and the III Corps headquarters building to honor more than 100 injured veterans and supporters as they rolled into post early Thursday morning.

As they rode, crowds cheered for and high-fived the riders, the 1st Cavalry Division Band played lively tunes and Fort Hood leadership expressed their gratitude and support to fellow service members.

“I really love this event,” said Col. Todd Fox, Fort Hood’s garrison commander. “I think this is a great opportunity for a lot of our young soldiers to see how our community sticks together even after you take off the uniform.”

The event was part of the 2017 United Healthcare Ride to Recovery Texas Challenge, a 500-mile non-competitive, therapeutic bike tour that began Monday in San Antonio.

The group arrived in Killeen on Wednesday afternoon.

The challenge is sponsored by Project Hero, a nonprofit dedicated to helping veterans and first responders affected by post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

“Project Hero and the Ride to Recovery is a great example of veterans and first responders working together to overcome some demons in our past,” Fox said.

“Let’s face it — we all have them and we can all rely on a good friend and a confidant to help us through those (times).”

Joe Coddington, operations director for Ride to Recovery events, spoke to the soldiers in uniform and thanked them for their support.

“I cannot express to you what it means to us and to them (the riders) that you line this road; it’s such a link that you have forever,” he said. “Part of my story is, I forgot what being a Marine meant and these guys reminded me of that and I couldn’t be prouder of that five-year stage of my life now. It was something that I had lost and now found.”

After the ceremony and short break, the Ride to Recovery vets were off to Waco and will then cycle southeast to the finale in Houston on Saturday.

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