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Friday, August 11, 2006

Soldier Ride
Wounded warriors heal on the road

Lance Cpl. Patrick J. Floto

SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. â?? For some veterans, particularly the combat-wounded, the biggest battle may not be the War on Terrorism itself, but coping with the injuries and disabilities.

Many organizations across the United States and beyond exist to help these wounded warriors find a unique way to recover from what was inflicted in battle.

For more than 75 wounded servicemembers, the best way to heal is to take action and accomplish something few have ever done: take part in a 3,000-mile bicycle ride across the country.

The cross country bicycle ride, an annual event known as Soldier Ride, began May 6 when the participants dipped the wheels of their bicycles in the Atlantic Ocean at Montauk Point, N.Y and ended July 29 with another dip in the Pacific Ocean here.

The 12-week odyssey was broken up into one week segments. The participants were able to join the cause for as long as they please.

Along the long route there were supporters cheering the participants on.

â??Almost all of my adult life, I have been stationed at Fort Bragg where just about every civilian in town is a military relative,â?? said former Army Sgt. Andrew Biddle. â??The consistency of American support for the troops is unbreakable. This is the first time I have truly seen just how much the military is appreciated.â??

Bob Mullin, a supporter of Soldier Ride, flew from his home in Massapequa, N.Y. to San Clemente just to watch them finish the ride.

â??I went to the park in Montauk Point and saw these young men missing arms and legs, but still in great shape heading across the country on bicycles,â?? said Mullin, a former Marine sergeant and retired New York Fire Department captain. â??They served their country well, and they deserve our respect. They have true military spirit, and their courage is an inspiration to all.â??

Mullin was joined by numerous other veteransâ?? organizations such as several chapters of the Military Order of the Purple Heart and the Patriot Guard.

In addition to those who served, one performer particularly close to the Marine Corps rode with the wounded warriors.â??When I played â??Jokerâ?? in the movie â??Full Metal Jacket,â?? I began a special relationship with the Marine Corps,â?? said Matthew Modine. â??When I began visiting hospitals housing the combat wounded, I realized just how important it was to show our support for the troops.â??

The Soldier Ride is an annual event put on by Soldierâ??s Angels, a support group that was founded by a mother of a former soldier in the summer of 2003 when she heard from her son that not every soldier was getting letters and care packages from home.

Since then, the group has expanded to a non-profit organization with branches at military hospitals across the United States and overseas. The group now hosts several projects to send supplies to wounded soldiers. For more information on Soldierâ??s Angels, visit their website at http://www.soldiersangels.org .


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