By Todd Martin
Special to the Daily Herald
FORT HOOD - About halfway through their pass alongside Meadows Elementary School, the pedaling soldiers came to a halt.
Some of the troops taking part in the Ride 2 Recovery Texas Challenge cross-state trek Thursday took a quick break when they saw the 6-year-old boy with a prosthetic leg.
Diego Mercado, a kindergarten student at Meadows, reached out his hand and first one, then a second and finally several riders stopped to share a moment with the child.
Mary Moreau, Mercado's teacher, said Mercado is an adventurous, athletic child who knows no fear.
"He swings, he goes down the slide, he runs, he does everything in PE, he jumps, he's one of the bravest kids I've ever met," said Moreau.
The Ride 2 Recovery has become a tradition at the Fort Hood school, which sits on 27th Street visible from Tank Destroyer Boulevard just inside the East Gate of Fort Hood.
As usual, the students and their teachers gathered along the sidewalk as traffic was stopped. They produced flags and posters and began chanting U-S-A as they waited for the heroic, recovering warriors to appear.
Lt. Jason Mercado said his son serves as an inspiration to many, including to soldiers who have been injured.
"Soldiers tell us all the time how they are inspired by him," he said.
Following the ride, Mercado said his son enjoys showing off in front of the soldiers. "He likes to see them ride and likes to show what he can do, too."
The boy brought his three-wheeled bike to school and was scheduled to ride around later in the day. "We'll have his own ride to recovery," said Moreau.
"That was awesome," said Meadows principal Sara Watson following the ride past the school. "I'm so proud we're a part of this. It makes me proud we have the opportunity to serve the military and their families."