CRANE, Ind. -- Crane Army and Navy employees enjoyed an opportunity to support America's disabled warriors May 22 when the Crane CycleFest took place on and around Naval Support Activity, Crane, as part of the Ride 2 Recovery program.
The ride, which offered a chance for bicyclists to take part in a 15, 30, 50 or 65-mile ride took place largely on the sprawling, Southern Indiana Navy base. Approximately 300 riders took to the roads of the base to enjoy the benefits of a closed course while raising more than $32,000 for the cause.
While not a Dept. of Defense sponsored event, Army and Navy members of "Team Crane" were excited at the chance to either volunteer to help or ride in the event.
The event was planned locally by bicyclists, many of whom worked on the base, who have a passion for both putting on a challenging ride for cyclists, but also helping men and women who have already sacrificed for the country. The Ride2Recovery organization hosts bicycle rides for disabled warriors across the country every year. Funds raised at Crane CycleFest for the troop-support group will be put toward "spinning recovery labs" and outdoor cycling programs at warrior transition units across the country.
Crane CycleFest lead coordinator Jeff Mason expressed how gratifying it was to see the efforts of so many people come together to produce the successful event in its first year. He said, "We had two goals from the very beginning: The first was to create an outstanding event that people would enjoy and want to return to again next year and the second was to raise a lot of support for wounded warriors - and I think we succeeded in both areas."
"This is a wonderful event," Ride 2 Recovery Director of Cycefest events Gary Hanson said. "Jeff Mason and everyone involved are just amazing to get this arranged. It is a big deal for us and they understand that. This is so much more than just getting on a bike. We are a family and this helps the riders so much."
Taking a part in the ride for Ride 2 Recovery were two disabled veterans, Air Force veteran Delvin McMillian and Army Spc. Juan Carlos Hernandez. Before the ride, Hernandez explained taking part in Ride 2 Recovery helps him with the loss of his right leg. "Mentally, it makes me feel better to get out there and peddle," Hernandez said. "It helps me to forget everything else."
Adding to the patriotic feel of the day were hundreds of American flags that lined the road from the starting area to the Crane gate. The flags were brought by Larry Eckhardt, who uses them at military funerals to honor Service members who are killed in action.
"I was both amazed and inspired by the event," Crane Army employee and event volunteer Donna Cox said. Cox, who escorted a group of NJROTC volunteers from Washington High School (Washington, Ind.), added, "To see young men who had lost limbs able to not only ride a bicycle, but do so very well and for long distances on a difficult course was heartwarming. What a beautiful sight to see the road from highway 231 all the way to the Crane gate lined with hundreds of American flags. I am now more convinced than ever that there is a vast majority that truly loves America and our men in uniform."
Volunteers did everything from registering cyclists, to stuffing the promotional packets the riders received, to standing along the route to ensure safety and security on base were always observed.
In describing his efforts to help, Crane Army employee and volunteer Dave Benston said, "I escorted a group of Navy Sea Cadets to a few 'hill motivation' stations. We would position ourselves at or near the top of one of the many long hill climbs the riders faced that day and offer encouragement and thanks for their participation."
"What was truly amazing was that you heard no complaints or grumblings, even at the end of a nearly mile long climb," Benston said. "The riders were there to show their support for our troops. Nearly all thanked the Cadets for being out there for them. It was a great group of people."
He added, "The number of cyclists and volunteers, the work of those who put the event together, and especially the participation of the disabled service members was inspiring. It was an honor to support the Wounded Warrior project even in this small way."
CAAA was established in Oct. 1977 and is a tenant of the Navy Region Midwest, Naval Support Activity Crane. The Army activity maintains ordnance professionals and infrastructure to receive, store, ship, produce, renovate and demilitarize conventional ammunition, missiles and related components.