Wounded Soldiers Ride to Recovery through Triangle

May 31st, 2009 by WY Daily Staff
Wounded Soldiers Ride to Recovery through Triangle

Nate Hunt cools off after a tough ride. His wounded warrior comrades modified his bike to manage the Triangle’s hills, enabling Hunt to finish at the front of the pack.

Staff Sergeant David Gardner of the 82nd Airborne lost most of his right leg when a tracked vehicle ran over it in Iraq.

“The left track grabbed my right foot and just sucked me right up underneath. It crushed both legs and then as soon as they started putting the splints and tourniquets on my legs we started to take sniper fire,” Gardner said.

He said more than 35 minutes passed before he was evacuated. Eventually, the paratrooper ended up at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he spent months in physical therapy.

Two days ago, Gardner rode his modified bicycle through the Historic Triangle along with many others as part of the Road 2 Recovery ride from Washington, DC to the Coca-Cola 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speed Way.

Road2Recovery riders make their way down the Parkway along the James River.

The Road2Recovery program is produced by the Fitness Challenge Foundation, a non-profit organization, in partnership with the United States military and the Virginia Volunteer Service Office. The purpose of the ride, according to the program’s website, is to “benefit mental and physical rehabilitation programs that feature cycling as the core activity” and to “improve the health and wellness of wounded warriors by providing a life changing experience that can impact their lives forever.”

The ride through the Triangle was covered in a blog called “Big Hollywood” and written by Andrew Breitbart. Below are his entries for their ride through our area.

Day 4 started off with a visit from Virginia Governor Tim Kaine. The Governor has been pushing many veterans benefit programs as Virginia has a large military presence. Gov. Kaine is also a cycling enthusiast and pledged to take part in next year’s event.

The route to Williamsburg again took the riders through some of the greatest roads in Virginia. The 72-mile route had a couple of long climbs, something that the riders have not seen many of.

Williamsburg is part of the Historic Triangle of Virginia, which also includes Jamestown and Yorktown, is among the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Williamsburg is the original Capitol of Virginia dating back to 1698. Williamsburg was established in 1632. Prior to the arrival of the English colonists at Jamestown in the Colony of Virginia in 1607, the area, which became Williamsburg, was largely wooded.

New Kent students greet the Road2Recovery riders.

New Kent turns out to welcome the riders – As the ride went through New Kent Township, hundreds of students came out to greet the riders and hear stories from them. The daily USO rest stop was next door and each of the schools teachers brought their students by to talk with the wounded warriors. They were especially fascinated with Jim Penseyres prosthetic leg. When we were in Texas, the kids came out every day, thanks in no large part to all of the efforts by the American Legion Auxiliary.

The main development was that Scot Moro, the ex-Mercury Cycling Team mechanic rigged up a push bar for Nate Hunt to enable him to get help on the days big climbs. The unintended consequences were that now Nate was like a rocket and instead of coming in behind most of the regular bikes, he was at the front and actually led the group to the finish in Williamsburg.

Rolling along the roads of Virginia – Tomorrow, we head down the Colonial Parkway on our way to Hampton and Ft. Eustis, home to one of the largest WTU’s will host dinner. In addition, the movie “Brothers at War” will be shown to a standing room only crowd that will include all of the R2R participants. Thanks to the movie’s creator, Jake Rademacher, for making this possible.

We are only 2 days away from the big concert finish with “American Idol” winner David Cook.

Day 5 – Williamsburg to Hampton saw the return of Patty Collins to the Ride. Patty has been very motivational for all of us as we have seen her develop over the past few rides. It was a year ago that Patty made her debut at a R2R event participating in last year’s East Coast Challenge.

Riding along the James River – Day 5 also saw the debut of Jackie and Dr. Wayne on the tandem. Jackie has never ridden a bike before, not even as a kid until she showed up at the start of the Memorial Challenge. She has come a long way since day one. She was quite shy and kept to herself and now is fully integrated into the group. She is fully enjoying the R2R experience.

Jackie and Dr. Doug – The best and most rewarding part of this program is to see the transformation of the wounded warriors that take part in the event. You look at the riders where they were on the first day and were they are now, it is truly amazing to see what a difference in their attitude and outlook. Whether it is Tony, Scott, “AC”, or even Nick or Matt that have ridden before, they have changed for the better this week.

Heading to Yorktown – Today we had a state police escort along the Colonial Parkway. There are no traffic lights or much traffic, but still when we reached Ft. Eustis, they really earned our respect. For those that know Hwy 60 in this area, let’s just say that traffic is a way of life. We did not stop at any traffic lights and no cars to be seen. The group stayed together for the most part and the wounded warriors that rode 50 miles in 4 1/2 hours on day one and two, rode 62 miles in 4 hours today. They were quite proud of that accomplishment and celebrated by hitting the hotel swimming pool.

Tonight’s dinner took place at Ft. Eustis with many members of their WTU. Col. Bowes threw a great BBQ. Thanks to the local USO for helping out. After dinner we were treated to a special screening of the movie “Brothers at Arms”. If you have not seen it, you should because it will give you a greater appreciation of the sacrifice our men and women in the military make.

Tomorrow we are really looking forward to American Idol winner David Cook…..

The entire blog can be found at http://bighollywood.breitbart.com/author/r2r/

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