News: Wounded Warriors trek 3,000-miles
Story by Lance Cpl. Orrin Farmer
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Combat wounded veterans are participating in one of the world’s hardest bicycle races starting at the Oceanside Pier in Oceanside, Calif. June 15.
Former and current wounded warriors from Walter Reed National Military Center formed the Walter Reed Bethesda Cycling Team for this year’s Race Across America.
The 32nd edition of the Race Across America is held yearly and travels 3000 miles and through 12 states according to the Race Across America website. Race Across America (RAAM) is one the most respected and longest running endurance sports events in the world. RAAM is seen as a pinnacle of athletic achievement not only in cycling circles but the greater sporting community as well.
These eight men are here to provide examples to other wounded warriors and handicapped people that they too can conquer this and other extremely hard trials despite their disabilities.
“Race Across America is another pinnacle opportunity in my life to be an example and show that there is nothing I, or other combat wounded veterans cannot do,” said Marine Cpl. Justin Gaertner, who lost both his legs in to an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in November of 2010. “Despite what life throws at us nothing can hold back a Marine or soldier’s courage and will-power to achieve greatness.”
Out of the eight men in the team only three are riding a conventional bicycle, the other five are riding hand peddled cycles and are the only ones in the event to do so.
“I am racing in RAAM to show that no matter what disability you may be facing, you can overcome your adversity,” said retired Marine Sgt. Michael Frazier, who lost both his legs to an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in May of 2011. “I want to be an example, to show that anyone who comes before me or after me, that they are capable.
Common trends amidst these men are their unwavering dedication to setting the example and a positive mental attitude about life.
“We’re going to do it, and we’re going to do it just as good as any other able bodied person,” said Frazier. “That’s what I want other people to know that even though we are missing legs, missing arms, or our brains are not right that we are still regular human beings and we can accomplish anything put in front of us.”
These warriors love the sport not only because it helps them achieve greater things, but it allows them to be with others that understand them.
“We relate, same issues, same kind of troubles dealing with military injuries, combat, and family,” said Sgt. 1st Class Keoki Smythe, Warrior Transition Battalion, Company B, Fort Carson, Colorado. “It’s very good for us, we can relate and understand. When I see them I don’t see someone in a wheel chair, instead it’s ‘oh that’s my buddy from this ride, or that ride.’”