By Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public AffairsApril 23, 2012
KILLEEN, Texas (April 23, 2012) -- First Army Division West Soldiers participated in the annual Ride 2 Recovery Texas Challenge, riding their bicycles from here to Waco, Texas, April 19 to aid in the effort to raise funds for wounded service members and veterans.
"I was just hoping to see the Soldiers from my unit and to have them there cheering me," said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Nash, 479th Field Artillery Brigade. "It was inspirational and motivational to see them out there."
Nash participated in the ride because of two wounded Soldiers he knows, one of whom he actually put into the Army when he was a recruiter.
The Texas ride, which began in San Antonio, had already moved through San Marcos and Austin before arriving in Killeen for the next stretch of cycling.
Ride 2 Recovery was created, in partnership with the Military and Veteran Affairs Volunteer Service Office, to promote mental and physical rehabilitation programs for wounded veterans that feature cycling as a core activity, according to the organization's web site.
"This ride gives wounded warriors the opportunity to have a physical challenge, as well as to face the mental challenges (faced by many) Soldiers that have served our country," said Debora Spano, Ride 2 Recovery spokesperson.
The riders staged their bikes and started their trek at the Shilo Inns Suites Hotel in Killeen. En route to Waco, the cyclists rode through Fort Hood, with their first stop at III Corps Headquarters.
Division West Soldiers and family members positioned themselves along the street outside division headquarters to cheer on the riders, a group of about 200 wounded service members, Soldiers, veterans and volunteers.
"You have all active services out here, and that just shows that anyone can do it," said Staff Sgt. Jimmie McCormack, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, who participated in the ride.
Along with the variety of cyclists was a variety of bicycles. Some riders used recumbent bikes; others used bikes with different adaptations to accommodate their physical abilities.
After riding through cheering crowds at Fort Hood, the riders broke off into different ability groups and continued on their journey. The faster riders led the way, with the moderate cyclists heading up the rear of the chain of travelers. As the ride went on, some participants aided fellow cyclists with added momentum by pushing them as they rode.
The group stopped off for a USO-sponsored lunch and quick rest at Lakewood Elementary School in Belton, Texas. The students, as well as their parents, were happy to greet the Soldier and veteran cyclists.
"It's about the Soldiers and (to) actually honor them and show their patriotism," said Kristi Janza, mother of one of the students at Lakewood. "My son told me he needed to wave his flag slowly to show respect, instead of wild and crazy because he was excited."
The ride finished in Waco at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, where the cyclists peddled down a long avenue of flags and were greeted with fanfare and flag waving. Local media, veterans, Families and politicians alike congratulated and welcomed the wounded warrior cyclists.
The riders rested there for the night and continued on to finish the ride in Arlington, Texas.
"This has been a life-changer for me," Spano said. "I so often have tears coming from my eyes as I tell about who these riders are, what they've done, and what it means to them to have our support."