This Saturday, more than 100 wounded veterans and volunteers will embark on a six-day, 325-mile bicycle ride from Cheyenne, Wyoming to Ft. Carson, Colorado. The event affirms that even injured heroes never retire from the bad-ass business.
The event is put on by Ride 2 Recovery, an outfit which raises money for cycling programs and indoor spinning recovery labs at military and Veterans Affairs locations nationwide to expedite the recovery process for injured veterans.
Executive Director John Wordin founded the program in 2007 in Palo Alto, California. He told The Daily Caller that the program’s maiden ride was in 2008, from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. to the Coca Cola 600 NASCAR race in Charlotte, N.C. with just 15 riders.
“The first ride we could hardly get anyone to do it, but then after they all went back and told all their buddies how great it was, we drastically increased our numbers on the following rides,” Wordin said. “Almost all of our advertising is by word of mouth and we’ve gone from 15 riders a ride to upwards of 150 riders a ride, in just over two years.”
Pfc. Gilad Afridonidze learned about the Ride 2 Recovery from another soldier in his company. “The ride helps in multiple ways,” Afridonidze told TheDC. “You see all these other guys who are coping with stuff like you are and work together to get to the end. We all are working out something, like Delvin [Mcmillian] is missing both legs and his arm and is still out there.”
On May 9, 2009, Afridonidze’s vehicle was hit by an IED in Iraq and rolled over three times. He broke his ankle in ten places and now suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the effects of a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). He is so grateful for all the ride has done for him. “The guys at Ride 2 Recovery are working so hard for us. Their support and the support from volunteers really helps get us through the healing process,” Afridonidze said.
A soldier for over 20 years, Sgt. Carlos Barreto was deployed to Iraq from 2005 to 2006, returning with TBI and PTSD. Barreto has been on several rides in the past and will be participating in the Rocky Mountain Challenge. “We are riding to recover from our wounds,” he told TheDC. “We are healing, no matter what, we are helping one another and working as a team to get better.”
Barreto added that the strong sense of camaraderie on the ride was one of the best parts. “It felt great to be riding with other vets and volunteers all going through the ride together.”
Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey biked with the Ride 2 Recovery on the Memorial Challenge in June. “It gets soldiers who are recovering from serious injuries out and gets them doing something that is both mentally and physically challenging,” he said in a video filmed during the ride. “And I tell you what, it is one of the most inspirational things I’ve ever been involved in.”
“A lot, a lot, a lot of people have been helped through the program,” actor and ride participant Mike Vogel told TheDC. “We could rattle off a long list of names of people who are returning to active duty who never thought that they would ever be able to again.”
Best known for his work in Miami Medical and Cloverfield, Vogel has gone on four rides, including the very first ride in 2008, and will be riding the Rocky Mountain Challenge. In May 2007, Vogel lost a cousin in Iraq. “It really got me to look at what I could do from my end of things and make a difference for these guys,” he said. “And this was great a avenue that was available.”
Vogel’s initial experience with the Ride 2 Recovery was also his first experience on a bike. “I had never ridden before, in fact I made fun of it. Spandex, Really?? I’m wearing spandex right now!? But then after one ride I realized how hard it is and I kind of had a baptism by fire because these guys will ride like it is a coffee break.” He continued, “You can’t feel tired when you are biking next to a guy with such harsh injuries.”
UnitedHealthCare is one of the ride’s largest sponsors. UnitedHealthCare employees will be participating in the ride and putting on events for the riders, including a Health and Wellness Expo on August 4 for all war veterans in the Colorado Springs area.
Will Shanley, a UnitedHealthCare spokesman, told TheDC that his organization is thrilled to be involved. “This is a great event which really aligns with our mission to get people to live healthier lives. It is truly an honor to be able to sponsor these amazing men and women.”
The USO is also helping to sponsor the event. “The USO wants to partner with the very best organizations to do more for the troops and families,” said CEO Sloan Gibson. “From my perspective, Ride 2 Recovery is the best.”
The USO will be servicing rest stops, providing the riders with food, water and encouragement, and the American Legion Riders will keep traffic in check and help guide the group.
On the ten year anniversary of 9/11, the Ride 2 Recovery plans to begin a ride which will incorporate all three crash sites. The ride will start at the site of the World Trade Center, head to Shanksville, Pennsylvania and finish at the Pentagon.
Ride 2 Recovery encourages civilians to raise money, come out on the ride or cheer on the sidelines to see true heroes in action. You can learn more at www.ride2recovery.com
WikiLeaks exposes war secretes