Riders remember wounded warriors in NY event
Hundreds rode Satur day in honor of injured war veterans who served the country during tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On Saturday, former military personnel were celebrated as more than 300 bike riders took part in the annual Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride in Greenport, N.Y., a charity event honoring Joseph J. Theinert, a Shelter Island native killed in Afghanistan on June 4, 2010.
"It gets lonely. Sometimes your only contact is with your doctor or physical therapist," said Ty Campbell, 33, of Queens, one of about 40 wounded warriors at the event.
Campbell still has difficulty discussing in great detail the anti-terrorism helicopter mission in which he fell from a rope as he boarded a ship in waters near Iraq while with the U.S. Coast Guard.
He sustained severe nerve damage, blew out a knee and said he'll never be able to run or jump again. "It's hard. You have to rely on friends for support, but they have lives."
The soldier ride is important because it gets veterans out of their hospital beds and into fresh air, said organizer Nick Kraus. "We want to show them that the community is behind them," Kraus said. "It can be an isolating experience coming back from being at war and being seriously injured and spending a lot of time in the hospital."
The soldier ride brought wounded veterans from around the country together, aiming to build on their quality of life by helping with physical, emotional and mental needs, officials said.
"It's the least we can do," said Mike Casper, 45, of Setauket. "Look at the sacrifices they made."
Knowing the community cares about them is appreciated, said Stephen Siwulec, 28, of Nesconset who served five years in the Army. He was nearly killed in 2004 when thrown from a Humvee that drove over a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.
He sustained traumatic brain, back, hip and shoulder injuries, and receives treatment from a veterans hospital three times a week. "It's great that the community helps and supports us," Siwulec said.