Wounded Vets Ride Again

David Wesolowski from East Hampton waves a flag as participants in Soldier Ride of The Hamptons cross the Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge in Sag Harbor, July 21, 2018.

Under sunny skies, the 2018 Soldier Ride hosted its bicycle ride and 5K walk on July 21. Starting at the Amagansett Farm, 60 veterans and more than 400 supporters took to the streets of East Hampton on bicycles of all types, many adapted for those veterans whose physical injuries left them without limbs.

They made their way to Sag Harbor for the Lap of Heroes ceremony and then returned back to Amagansett Farm for an outdoor barbecue complete with clams on the half shell.

Hosted by the Soldier Ride Foundation, which is part of the Wounded Warrior Project, this fundraising event enables the foundation to provide care to all veterans regardless of their type of injury. Therapeutic treatments for veterans who have sustained physical injuries or for those afflicted with less obvious injuries, such as PTSD and depression, are made available to all the veterans who choose to participate.

Supporters of the event rode with the soldiers, including a group of law enforcement officers, emergency medical personnel, and firefighters known as the Spikes and Shields. Another group of veterans were from the United Kingdom, known as The Limbless Veterans. Despite numerous amputations among its members, The Limbless Veterans have been riding in the Hamptons Soldier Ride for several years.

The route taken to the Hamptons by the Soldier Ride included a ride through New York City, where the Brooklyn Bridge was closed down to allow the veterans to make their way to Coney Island.

Many of the veterans expressed their gratitude for the support they received from motorists and people who stopped to applaud and cheer as they made their way across the bridge and around the city area. Sixty veterans also participated in the Soldier Ride through the Town of Babylon on Friday, July 20, before arriving at the Ocean Vista Resort in Amagansett. The resort opened its doors to the veterans for a buffet dinner and some much needed rest.

At the pre-ride get-together, Derrick Clark, a veteran who had suffered a serious back injury, was looking forward to his first Soldier Ride. “There’s so much camaraderie at these events. It’s something I think we all miss,” he said. “The military is great in that respect. Once you put on that uniform everyone is the same. It doesn’t matter what color you are, what color your eyes are, if you’re tall or short, male or female, everyone is the same. Everyone is accepted.”

Clark also pointed out that Soldier Ride is an important morale booster for wounded soldiers. “People forget about the guys who come home that are injured in some way. They come home to a hospital. There’s no parades or welcome home signs, no recognition of their service. They might spend months in a hospital rehabilitating and are just released to their families,” he said. “They receive no recognition like the other guys, who are fortunate enough to make it home without some kind of injury and are greeted with a hero’s welcome.”

Another soldier who was also preparing for his first ride, Jose Rodriguez Fabiani, who at age 65 still serves in the Army National Guard, said he was riding for Vietnam veterans. “If nothing else, I wish that people would recognize the hurt that the Vietnam veterans carry with them,” he said. “When we came home, people called us ‘war mongers,’ spit in our faces, and treated us like the war was our fault. We had nothing to do with it other than that we were there serving our country. The protests should not have been aimed at us, it should have been aimed at the politicians. The Vietnam vets are forgotten heroes and we were so badly treated.”

Fabiani said he was grateful to Soldier Ride and the Wounded Warrior Project for the opportunities they provided to all veterans.

If you would like to learn more about the Wounded Warrior Project or Soldier Ride, visit www.woundedwarriorproject.org.

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