Pedaling 200 miles for Explosive Ordnance Disposal techs
Northwest Florida Daily News
EGLIN AFB — On Saturday morning, 50 cyclists will gather in front of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Memorial to prepare to ride 200 miles to Panama City and back to raise money for wounded or fallen bomb technicians.
Many of the riders are current or former EOD techs charged with the dangerous job of locating and disarming bombs.
Most, if not all, know someone in the tight-knit community who has been killed in action. The list of names etched on the memorial’s wall has grown by 12 to 15 each year since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Probably three times as many have come home with catastrophic wounds — as multiple amputees, blind or with traumatic brain injuries.
“That really tugs at your heartstrings,” said Mike Harris, a retired EOD tech who teaches at the Naval EOD School at Eglin Air Force Base, where all branches of the military come for initial training.
In his nearly three decades in the field, Harris has known many students who have been injured or killed trying to disarm an improvised bomb, and he wanted to do something to help.
The Gulf Coast Two-Day Undefeated Bike Ride already has raised $37,000 this year for the EOD Warrior Foundation. The goal is $70,000.
The foundation supports families of the fallen and flies them to the EOD Memorial ceremony each spring. It also pays to fly families to the hospital after a tech is injured and provides each tech a laptop so they can stay in touch with their units while they recover.
This year’s event is more than twice as large as last year’s, Harris said. He hopes it will continue to grow.
He said the riders are making a small sacrifice to show solidarity with those who have given a lot.
“The average person doesn’t want to do a 200-mile bike ride in a weekend,” he said. “It takes a little bit of grit to get there.”
To sponsor a rider and help the group reach its fund-raising goal, visit eodride.org.
Check it out
Riders will gather at the memorial at the Naval EOD School starting at 6:30 a.m. Saturday. The Niceville High School Junior ROTC will perform. The event is open to the public. Riders will take off at 8:30 a.m.
The after-ride celebration will be at Ed’s Hometown Seafood and Steaks in Niceville. Ten percent of the restaurant’s proceeds all weekend will benefit the EOD Warrior Foundation.