Written by Christy Hinko Wednesday, 24 July 2013 10:29
Over the span of three days last week, more than 40 Wounded Warriors completed a journey across Long Island in Soldier Ride, warmly hosted by Farmingdale, establishing “base camp” at the Farmingdale Marriott. Soldier Ride is a multi-day cycling event for Wounded Warriors to use cycling and the bonds of service to overcome physical, mental, or emotional wounds. The ride helps warriors gain confidence.
The disabilities of the soldiers, not always physical, range from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), brain injuries, and amputated limbs. Others have nerve damage, or other physical damage from previous injuries. One of the participants in the Babylon ride has been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, which doctors believe is a result of his service in Iraq, in proximity to the toxic burn fields.
“Everyone starts; everyone finishes,” said Retired Army veteran and Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride Team member Dan Schnock. “One team, one fight.”
The Soldier Ride began nine years ago, as a community ride in the Hamptons, when three cyclists wanted to do something to honor the returning soldiers. In 2004, the trio raised $1 million for the first Soldier Ride. This was the sixth time the Soldier Ride has been hosted through Babylon.
Schnock, of Jacksonville, FL, explained that the Soldier Ride is not a race, “It’s an inclusive adaptive sporting event, a social event.”
Many of these Warriors have conquered the emotional and physical wounds of war to prepare for this journey.
“We ride nice and slow; we break when we need to break,” Schnock said. “Everyone finishes. Warriors of all ability levels can cycle on Soldier Ride. State-of-the-art adaptive hand cycles, trikes, and bicycles to accommodate Warriors with various injuries and disabilities, as well as unmodified road bikes for riders not requiring adaptive equipment are provided.
On the eve of the event, the American Airpower Museum in East Farmingdale hosted the soldiers, their guests, and the staff and crew of Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride. The museum held a fitting tribute to the Warriors.
Forty-two soldiers, ranging in age from 21 to 46 years old, rode one portion of the total course, over the three-day span. On the first morning, the riders were brought to New
York City. They began their journey at 8:50 a.m. on July 18 on 6th Avenue, traveling to a Brooklyn firehouse for a wreath laying ceremony. By noon, the traveling Warriors had arrived at Fort Hamilton, where they ended their first day of cycling.
On Friday, July 19, the soldiers began their day’s ride at Babylon Town Hall, traveling east where they would finish the second portion of the course at Outlook Beach in East Islip.
On the final day, the wounded warriors started their ride at Ocean View Farm in Amagansett, stopping at Sag Harbor for a ceremonial tribute, and then circled back to
Amagansett. Schnock estimated that more than 1,000 cyclists would join their ride throughout the total course. The soldiers are kept in a close pack, as cyclists and supporters are joining and breaking from the ride throughout the three-days.
David Wright, of Nebraska, rode last year for the first time in Chicago. “I had so much fun last year; I went out and bought my own road bike to continue training.”
This was the first Soldier Ride for Danny Tam, Air Force veteran, of Austin, TX. Tam explained that it was important for him to ride the Soldier Ride through New York. “I feel like my [military] service was defined by 9/11; I need to see that New York is healing, so I can begin my healing.” Tam was excited to be in New York, but couldn’t wait to return home to his wife, Alyshia and children, Caleb and Anna.
The next local Soldier Ride is scheduled for Sept. 7, across the North Fork of Long Island, beginning in Greenport, in honor of First Lieutenant Joseph J. Theinert. Theinert grew up on Shelter Island. He received his deployment orders to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom on March 28, 2010. On June 4, 2010, after undergoing hostile fire from rocket-propelled grenades, Theinert, 24, was killed when an IED detonated, while he was on foot patrol with his platoon.