A Tes­ta­ment to True En­durance

In­jured Vet­er­ans Ped­dle 110 Miles to Raise Aware­ness and Cel­e­brate Sur­vival

The Washington Post Sunday - - Obituaries - By Jackie Spin­ner

GET­TYS­BURG, Pa., April 28 —The troops rolled out in uni­son from the bat­tle­field Satur­day morn­ing, nearly all in­jured vet­er­ans of more re­cent wars.

Some of the most se­verely in­jured — those with am­pu­tated arms or legs — were out­fit­ted with spe­cial bi­cy­cles for the two-day, 110-mile ride from Get­tys­burg to Bethesda.

“It is amaz­ing to know what you can do af­ter such a trau­matic event in your life,” said Nathan Potts of Oklahoma, a pa­tient at Wal­ter Reed Army Med­i­cal Cen­ter in the Dis­trict, whose leg was am­pu­tated Jan. 6 af­ter he was wounded in a road­side ex­plo­sion in Iraq.

The group of about 100 veter- ans, some also from Na­tional Naval Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Mary­land and Brooke Army Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Texas, camped out Fri­day night on a farm on the his­toric bat­tle­field that be­longs to a for­mer Marine.

They headed to­ward Fred­er­ick on Satur­day morn­ing for a lay­over be­fore join­ing 200 ad­di­tional rid­ers and sup­port­ers in Wash­ing­ton to fin­ish the fi­nal leg to Bethesda.

Or­ga­niz­ers of the bike ride are try­ing to raise aware­ness and money for ex­er­cise equip­ment for dis­abled civil­ians and war vet­er­ans who do not qual­ify for spe­cial equip­ment.

They also hope to en­cour­age other vet­er­ans to try a sport that they might feel is be­yond their abil­i­ties, said Chris Car­rigg, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of World TEAM Sports, of Dorch­ester, Mass., which spon- sored the ride.

But above all, this was a ride to cel­e­brate tri­umphs and en­dur­ing hu­man spirit.

“It’s not like a pep rally, where peo­ple show their sup­port or put bumper stick­ers on their cars,” said Marine Lt. Col. Steve Dany­luk, a re­servist at Camp Le­je­une in North Carolina who is an Amer­i­can Air­lines pilot in his civil­ian life.

He was par­tic­i­pat­ing in his sec­ond ride and per­suaded his em­ployer to do­nate air­line tick­ets for some of the vet­er­ans. “This ride is like a mis­sion for th­ese guys,” he said.

On the bus ride Fri­day af­ter­noon from Wal­ter Reed to Get­tys­burg, in­jured troops swapped sto­ries of war, the blasts that blew off some of their limbs and left them dis­abled.

But by Fri­day night in Get­tys­burg, they cel­e­brated their sur­vival over steak, baked beans and kegs of beer.

Marines from Camp David es­tab­lished a huge tent city on the farm. Some of the rid­ers slept out­side on the bat­tle­field and oth­ers on cots in white tents.

“You sit on hal­lowed ground in Get­tys­burg,” said re­tired Marine Cpl. Sea­mus Gar­rahy, who hosted the rid­ers for the sec­ond year at his farm. Of the bat­tle, one of the blood­i­est in U.S. his­tory, he said, “They could hear it and smell it from 30 miles away.”

Marine Gen. James Con­way came out Satur­day morn­ing to send the rid­ers off un­der a bright blue sky that would later turn rainy. The haze in the morn­ing still hov­ered over the bat­tle­field, how­ever.

“It’s a great day,” Con­way said in his pep talk. “All right. Be safe.” The rid­ers will leave from the Ge­ico of­fices on West­ern Av­enue in the Dis­trict about 3 p.m. Sun­day. A video of the ride will be fea­tured Mon­day on www. wash­ing­ton­post.com.

BY BILL O’LEARY — THE WASH­ING­TON POST

A group of rid­ers ap­proaches the 30-mile mark. Or­ga­niz­ers hope to in­spire other dis­abled vet­er­ans to try a sport that they might feel is be­yond their abil­i­ties.

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