CRAWFORD — Seventeen wounded warriors climbed aboard mountain bikes alongside their ex-commander in chief Friday, blazing trails across former President George W. Bush’s ranch near Crawford.
Bush led the way for 62 miles on the annual W100k mountain bike ride, a program hosted by the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas.
Every service member, from all branches of the armed forces, was injured in combat since Sept. 11, 2001.
Staff Sgt. Alvis “Todd” Domerese, who served with the 1st Cavalry Division from 2001 to 2004, first picked up biking after leaving the military, as a way to cope with his transition.
“I retired from the Army and stopped exercising. One day I was like, ‘I gotta do something.’ I went out and bought a bike. …. Ever since then it was history,” he said.
Domerese sustained a traumatic brain injury in 2004, when his vehicle was struck by two IEDs while on patrol in Iraq.
Though all of their stories are different, Domerese said the riders in the event shared a special bond while on the trails together.
“The camaraderie that’s here, the support from everybody, it’s one of those things that just motivates you to want to do it more,” he said.
Another participant with Fort Hood roots, Command Sgt. Maj. Brian Flom, who was with the 720th Military Police Battalion from 2001 to 2010, was stationed in Irag when a rocket attack caused a head injury.
Today, to help with the unseen wounds, Flom spends time outdoors.
“This is my pharmacy, getting out here,” Flom said, scanning the horizon of Bush’s 1,600-acre property. “To each person their own, but to me, it’s getting outside, getting active. It’s better than any type of pill or type of medication anybody can give me.”
The W100k was started five years ago, not only to help heal the wounds of battle, but also to celebrate all the soldiers have given through their service, said Lt. Col. Matthew Amidon, a Marine Corps reservist and program manager for the military service initiative at the Bush Center.
“It’s not intended to highlight victims,” he said. “It’s intended to highlight success, recovery and resilience.”
Amidon also said the event is a reminder of Bush’s continued support for those who’ve served the nation.
“It’s very clear to everyone involved how much President Bush cares about them and their families, and it’s very important for them to see that he still cares, and is dedicating the rest of his life to supporting them and those families,” he said.
Though he no longer leads the troops, through the W100k, he steps into another role — friend.
“I’m proud to be their friend,” Bush said. “I was proud to be their commander in chief, now I’m proud to be riding mountain bikes with them.”