Natick Soldier pedals away from troubles
Staff Sgt. Eric Murray, of the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in Massachusetts, has used "Ride 2 Recovery" cycling events to overcome his war wounds and divorce.

NATICK, Mass. (July 1, 2014) -- No one will ever mistake Staff Sgt. Eric Murray for a Tour de France winner, but that really doesn't matter.

His bicycle became a lifeline of sorts for Murray after he suffered wounds to his lower extremities from two mortar rounds in a September 2006 attack near Sadr City, Iraq, and later during his divorce. When he hopped on the saddle, his troubles disappeared.

"I got on the bike, and I didn't think about my ex-wife at the time," Murray said. "I wasn't thinking about how often do I get to see my son? And I wasn't thinking about the flashbacks that I have from Iraq.

"I was just thinking about the road, (and I was) just enjoying life again," added Murray.

Murray had discovered Ride 2 Recovery, known as R2R, an organization that helps service members and veterans to heal physically, mentally and emotionally through cycling. R2R holds a number of multi-day challenge rides of up to 450 miles each year that bring veterans together in various parts of the country.

"When I found Ride 2 Recovery, I was enjoying the physical aspect, but I was also enjoying the fact that I was able to clear my head," Murray said. "Getting on the road, I didn't care about anything except for what was in front of me on the road."

His first R2R ride was last year's Minuteman Challenge, which ran from Waltham, Massachusetts, to Philadelphia.

"And (I) fell in love with it just because of the camaraderie with all the wounded veterans and (post-traumatic stress disorder) members," Murray said. "I got into it and started riding, and started liking it a little bit. They donated a bike to me so I can continue to ride. I've just been riding ever since then."

Though the 35-year-old father of three sons hadn't ridden since his youth, Murray said he felt comfortable on the bike from the start.

"I wasn't afraid to fall," Murray said. "In cycling they always say, 'it's not if you're going to fall, it's when you're going to fall.' I've fallen a couple of times, and I get back up on the bike and I push myself to where I know I can't go anymore."

Murray has stayed upright well enough to do four challenge rides since being assigned, in July 2013, to the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, as a combat arms non-commissioned officer with the Human Research Volunteer program.

"On the rides, they try not to let you fail," Murray said. "If you're hurting, somebody's going to come up and help push you and get you up there. We ride for about 50 to 60 miles a day, and then we get back on our bikes and go on the next day."

Murray said he has met some inspirational veterans out on those roads.

"We have some Soldiers in the program who are just phenomenal," Murray said. "It makes for a good time on the rides.

"We've got some that are triple amputees, double amputees," he continued. "We've got some that are a little heftier because of their injuries, but once we all come together, it's just like one big family that just melded together instantly."

Next up for Murray will be the 2014 Minuteman Challenge in September, which runs from Boston to Fort Lee, N.J.

"It's awesome to see different parts of the country that we help defend as military personnel," said Murray, "but it's just the camaraderie (that) makes everything so great."

Don't expect Murray to abandon the bike anytime soon. He said that it helps him ward off the bad days.

"If I could do it on a daily basis, I would," Murray said. "It's not my entire life, but I try to allow it to (be) a little bit of my life."

Page last updated Tue July 1st, 2014 at 00:00