Wounded Warrior Project’s annual Soldier Ride reminds wounded soldiers of their strength(Senior Airman Giang Nguyen/US Air Force)
The New York City chapter of the Soldier Ride kicked off its 14th annual event in July, with help from FDNY, providing about 60 former soldiers of various ability levels with the opportunity to ride bicycles together, boosting their self-confidence and camaraderie.
Soldier Rides are usually a four-day commitment, which includes social events for veterans and two bike rides of 10 to 15 or more miles. Wounded Warrior Project provides state-of-the-art biking equipment and fittings for all participants.
Veteran Jeremiah Pauley told Fox News: “Some of [these warriors] haven’t been on bicycles since they were kids and they’re about to find out that they can still do something that they might have not thought they could do in years.”
“I was wounded in Iraq in 2006 and for a long time I felt very lost and all alone. I was invited to participate in a Soldier Ride in 2011, and it really just empowered me to want to become better, become healthier,” Pauley said.
Wounded Warrior Project hosts similar events across the country. The ride is just one of multiple, free rehabilitation programs the organization offers to help warriors and their families recover as they re-enter society after serving in the U.S. military.
“Many [soldiers] say that Soldier Ride was their first step in that recovery process,” Jennifer Silva, Wounded Warrior Project Chief Programs Officer, told Fox News.
This year, the soldiers started their ride in Midtown, Manhattan, and cycled to Coney Island, where they had a hot dog eating contest.
The next day, they biked from Babylon, Long Island, to the Stephen Talkhouse, a bar in Amagansett, Long Island, where the idea for Soldier Ride was conceived.
Chris Carney, then a bartender at the Stephen Talkhouse, thought of the idea for the Soldier Ride in 2004.
Carney, along with veterans Heath Calhoun and Ryan Kelly, rode 4,200 miles coast-to-coast on his bike in order to raise $1 million for Wounded Warrior Project and the Soldier Ride. A DVD of their journey is available through the nonprofit USA Warrior Stories.