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Wounded Warriors Cycling Across America for Empowerment

A group of Wounded Warriors pedaled along Texas 71 on Friday, June 1, heading west toward Llano. The Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride lets veterans experience a four-day cycling ride during which they learn to push their limits, according to the Wounded Warrior Project website. If a Wounded Warrior doesn’t have a bike, the organization sets them up with a one, even fitting them with a custom bike or hand-pedal trike for their physical needs. Go to woundedwarriorproject.org for more information. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

LLANO — As the Texas sun beat down on them, the 18 Wounded Warrior cyclists kept pedaling through the Highland Lakes on a 100-mile training ride as they prepared for an even longer ride this September. With all the challenges each of the riders faced on June 1, one thing stuck out.

“The biggest challenge on the ride this past week was the heat,” said Will Schiek, the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride team manager.

The cyclists started at and returned to Highland Lakes Camp and Conference Center in Spicewood. The riders completed the more than 100-mile training ride in a leap-frog fashion: One group would ride, then another would take over, and back and forth.

These particular riders were training for a leg of the 2018 Soldier Ride Across America (SRAA) in September that starts at Ground Zero in New York City before ending in San Diego.

The Soldier Ride, which is celebrating 15 years, gives soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines an opportunity to stretch their perceived boundaries as well as share a common experience.

“Wounded Warrior Soldier Ride is a unique, four-day cycling opportunity for wounded service members and veterans to use cycling and camaraderie to overcome physical, mental, or emotional wounds,” Schiek said. “The rides are a great way to help warriors gain confidence and realize you can do this.”

It’s also about potential.

“These rides help put the focus back on what these veterans can do,” he added. “It helps them connect with each other and their communities and empowers them to contribute. Our vision at Wounded Warrior Project is to foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation’s history.”

Wounded Warrior Project has three Soldier Ride teams in the United States that hold 36-40 rides a year. The only thing a veteran or wounded service member needs to know is how to ride a bike. Soldier Ride provides bicycles for a “wide range of physical injuries and those overcoming unseen injuries, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury,” the team manager pointed out.

This includes adapted hybrid-recumbent and hand-crank bikes or trikes.

The experienced riders on June 1, however, brought their own bikes as they were preparing for the SRRA leg from Louisville, Kentucky, to Lubbock in September.

Schiek said SRRA is more than a bike ride.

“In addition to celebrating the landmark (Wounded Warrior Project) program, WWP teammates, alumni, and the American public will have an amazing story to rally around due to the magnitude of the physically taxing, cross-country journey,” he added. “WWP will have the opportunity to raise additional awareness through media storytelling on the warrior issues of PTS(D), mental health, obesity, physical challenges, and employment.”

Go to woundedwarriorproject.org for more information or to support the program and its goals.

daniel@thepicayune.com

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