• Chad Jukes, a cyclist participating in the Sea to Shining Sea program, waves his prosthetic leg in victory as he arrives at Fort Carson's Iron Horse Park June 16. Jukes lost his leg after his truck was struck by an anti-tank mine while serving in Iraq. Jukes said the 4,000-mile journey from San Francisco to Virginia Beach, Va., is the first long-distance cycling event he has ever undertaken.

    From sea to shining sea, wounded warriors inspire the nation

    Chad Jukes, a cyclist participating in the Sea to Shining Sea program, waves his prosthetic leg in victory as he arrives at Fort Carson's Iron Horse Park June 16. Jukes lost his leg after his truck was struck by an anti-tank mine while serving in Iraq...

  • Riders from the Sea to Shining Sea program cycle into Gunnison after a 64-mile trip from Montrose, Colo., June 14. The riders, many of whom were wounded in combat, began the ride in San Francisco May 22 and will finish at Virginia Beach, Va., July 24.

    From sea to shining sea, wounded warriors inspire the nation

    Riders from the Sea to Shining Sea program cycle into Gunnison after a 64-mile trip from Montrose, Colo., June 14. The riders, many of whom were wounded in combat, began the ride in San Francisco May 22 and will finish at Virginia Beach, Va., July 24.

FORT CARSON, Colo. (Army News Service, July 13, 2010) -- After an injury, a Soldier's life can change forever. The road to recovery can be long and fraught with frustration. Sometimes full recovery is impossible. A few American heroes, injured in service to their nation, have set out to prove that despite the challenges they face they can still live productive and fulfilling lives.

These dedicated survivors and their supporters are demonstrating their physical prowess and determination as they travel from San Francisco to Virginia Beach, Va., during the Sea to Shining Sea cross-country cycling event.

C.W. Conner, an event coordinator for Sea to Shining Sea said each day the cyclists stop to rest in a new town, and each day they inspire the people of America, disabled or not, to live active and enriched lives.

"We go through some of these small towns and the people are very patriotic, even crying," Conner said.

Conner said he began working with wounded warriors after his son joined the Army.

"I started doing this full time about a year ago and I love it," he said. "I cannot imagine doing anything else."

As the cyclists trekked through Colorado, they took some time off to celebrate the Army's 235th birthday with the people of Gunnison June 14, and later that week with the Fort Carson community to celebrate Iron Horse Week.

The people of Gunnison invited the cyclists to join them for a barbeque and their American Legion Army Birthday Celebration.

"The folks out there really seem to value freedom," said Sea to Shining Sea rider Nicolette Maroulis. "It is really inspiring."

Maroulis, a former dog handler for the U.S. Navy, said she participated in the ride to prove she could still be a strong and capable person.

"Before I came on this ride I would compare myself to the version of myself before I was injured," she said. "Well, I never rode across the country on a bike before I got hurt."

Maroulis does not have full use of her legs and is undergoing the 4,000-mile endurance test with a hand cycle.

She said one of her greatest motivations is to show other injured veterans that they can still experience life and be active members of society.

"I hope to say to that wounded veteran, 'Hey you can get off the couch; you can go out and do things,'" explained Maroulis. "It does not have to be with a big crowd, just grab your bike and ride."

Upon arrival at Fort Carson June 16, the riders were greeted with cheers from Fort Carson Soldiers and families.

Maj. Gen. David G. Perkins, commanding general, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, thanked the riders for visiting Fort Carson and commended the wounded warriors for their determination.

"You inspired us when you were on the battlefield, as all our nation's servicemembers do," Perkins said. "Now after mastering the injuries sustained in service to our nation you say, 'not only will I overcome this challenge in my life, I will use it as a way to inspire others.'"

Maroulis said remembering those that made the ultimate sacrifice for her freedom motivates her more than anything else.

"There are so many Soldiers that have lost their lives or lost their limbs so I can be free," she said. "If we do not get out there, if we do not live and enjoy these freedoms, then what is it all for."

After visiting Fort Carson and resting for a day in Colorado Springs, the cyclists set off once more, headed toward Denver to share their message of perseverance with the rest of the nation.

(Spc. Andrew Ingram writes for the 4th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office)

Page last updated Tue July 13th, 2010 at 16:24