News: Wounded Warriors bike 400 miles
Story by Sgt. Jonathan Thibault
CHICAGO -- Wounded Warriors from all branches of the U.S. military rode bicycles almost 400 miles, from Chicago to Detroit, during a Ride 2 Recovery Challenge, Aug. 23-29.
Joint Task Force Carson soldiers from Fort Carson Warrior Transition Battalion and 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division joined more than 200 riders in the challenge ride, which took six days to complete.
Sgt. 1st Class Keoki Smythe, Warrior Transition Battalion, has participated in the rides for the last three years. His love of riding started when he attended one of the challenge rides in California.
"I signed up for the challenge at a Warrior Transition Battalion in Europe," said Smythe. "My first ride ever on a bike was a 500-mile challenge ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and is the most difficult of all the challenges. It was a very difficult ride for a first-time rider."
Smythe said the challenge rides are therapeutic and mentally healing for wounded warriors.
"It's low-impact exercising, and I'm in a competitive sport like I used to be," said Smythe. "I am riding with peers that have similar or other types of injuries due to combat or other reasons in the military. During the rides, you are relating to people with similar issues. I believe military members have a hard time talking about things, and these rides allow them to talk to each other."
David Haines, chief of operations, R2R, who coordinates many of the programs, talked about why they do the rides.
"The ride provides a challenge to wounded warriors because it's an obstacle. If you tell a healthy person to do 300-450 miles in a week; they'll tell you that you are crazy. These wounded warriors are no different, but they learn to fight against other obstacles in their lives, whether it's mental or physical," added Haines.
There were many first-time challenge riders who found the first few days of the ride difficult. One first-time rider, Jose Miranda, former Navy, who lost a limb on an aircraft carrier, used a recumbent hand-cycle during the ride.
"My bike had technical issues the first and second day of the ride," said Miranda. "It's been a great challenge so far with a large amount of miles to cover. I am not used to going this far, and [was] unprepared to go this fast."
Ride 2 Recovery challenge rides take a physical and emotional toll on riders, and teaches them to be resilient and determined.
"Physically, I was exhausted," said Miranda. "When I was leading the group, there were times I wanted to move out of the way and let someone else lead, but I felt like the group was depending on me, so I kept on going. Mentally, I wanted to stop. I still have a lot of self-doubt but I'm still moving forward."
Experienced riders found new ways to challenge themselves during the ride.
"The way you find more challenges is by getting out there and helping others make it through the challenges," said Smythe. "A person can learn to help other riders who are having trouble climbing hills by riding beside them and pushing on their back to get them up the hill. Another way for an experienced rider to challenge themselves would be to volunteer to do extra miles after the ride is over for the day."
At the end of the ride, many riders had a different view of themselves, and gained a sense of triumph.
"I feel very accomplished," said Miranda. "I see what I am capable of doing now. It's motivating within itself to just keep going even [when] I was tired. The hardest part of the ride was believing in myself. I wanted to quit at times, but now I know I can do it. I plan to keep on doing challenges for as long as I can."