A Testament to True Endurance
Injured Veterans Peddle 110 Miles to Raise Awareness and Celebrate Survival
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.
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.