News: ‘Ride for Heroes’ rolls through Combat Center
Story by Lance Cpl. Ali Azimi
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -The Ride for Heroes team’s journey began in St. Augustine, Fla. They have traveled across the southern paths of the United States to their final destination – Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.
On July 31, the Ride for Heroes team arrived at the Combat Center on their way to the ocean.
Upon their arrival, the Combat Center showed their support with Marines standing at the gate to greet the tired cyclists.
The following day, the team members were invited back to the Combat Center to get an inside look of an M1A1 Abrams Tank at the 1st Tank Battalion’s tank ramp.
They were able to see the inside of the tracked vehicle as well as get a ride across the unit’s ramp.
After their tanking experience, the Ride for Heroes team set out for Camp Pendleton, ending their two-month journey.
This team of cyclists has raised approximately $68,000 for the Semper Fi Fund, during their two month trek through rough weather and terrain on their journey.
The four-man team originally started with two members. John Gerlaugh, a retired Marine, and his brother-in-law, Dennis McLaughlin, had always dreamed about biking across the United States.
During a Semper Fi Fund fundraiser in N.Y., Gerlaugh and McLaughlin became attached to the idea of combining their cross-country tour with a fundraiser for the Wounded Warriors.
“For me, this trip is about demonstrating the kind of sacrifice these young Americans made to this nation,” McLaughlin said. “They left the security and comfort of their lives to give back to the ever-threatened bank account of freedom.”
Troy McLehany, another retired Marine, and Ben Maenza, a medically retired wounded Marine, heard about the trip and couldn’t stop themselves from joining.
Maenza, formerly a combat engineer with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, lost both legs due to an explosion of an improvised explosive device during a patrol in Afghanistan.
Even with his injuries, Maenza rode through each state using an adapted cycle that allowed him to pedal and brake with his hands.
The four riders inspired those they met along the way to the west coast to donate what they could. One individual donated $10,000.
“My goal is to motivate people and let them know that, even when they’re faced with tragedies in their lives, determination and a positive attitude can overcome any obstacle,” Maenza said.