For injured veterans, the ride back to health is long and arduous. The wounds from combat are external and take the form of damaged or missing limbs, painful burns, nerve damage, loss of vision or hearing, and a multitude of other devastating injuries. The wounds are internal, whether in the form of traumatic brain injury (TBI) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Thanks to programs like Ride 2 Recovery (R2R) and Air Compassion for Veterans (ACV), these warriors do not journey alone. R2R aids in recovery and rehabilitation through cycling events that nearly all veterans with mental and physical disabilities can participate in. Air Compassion for Veterans provides free air transportation through its partner, American Airlines, to get them there.
ACV recently had the privilege of flying two groups of service men and women to cycling events. The first was the Ride 2 Recovery Memorial Challenge in June. The 325-mile, six-day tour began in Arlington, Virginia, and ended in Virginia Beach. ACV provided airline tickets for 18 of the many participants. The second was the R2R Normandy Challenge. In early July, ACV flew 147 injured U.S. veterans and their supporters to France where cyclists visited historic World War II battle and landing sites during the week-long ride.
Bicycles range from the traditional to the custom-made (recumbent), depending on the physical condition of the veteran.
The positive impact of these sports events cannot be overstated. Here are a few comments from wounded warriors participating in the cycling trips.
“Through these rides, I get to interact with other wounded warriors and share our stories. We can relate to each other as we ride…My family is very excited that I found something that can help me recover from my combat injuries.”
“Just being around other people who’ve had similar experiences…you’re feeling down and tired for the last few miles. There’s a lot of camaraderie and a lot of spirit to keep you up. You’ve got a buddy that rides up beside you—they put their hand on your back and they just push you along and say, ‘Come on!’”
“Participation in the Ride 2 Recovery Challenge benefits injured veterans by providing a life-changing experience.”
The wife of a wounded soldier who cycled on the Normandy tour, said, “Before Ride 2 Recovery came into our lives, we were growing distant. We couldn’t communicate. I didn’t understand what he was going through. He didn’t understand what I was going through. When John [Wordin, founder and head of R2R] invited us to ride, we reunited all over again.”
Cycling Events ‘Life Changing’ for Wounded Veterans