Wounded Warriors face new mission with cycling trek
By HEATHER WYSOCKI | Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass. | Published: September 16, 2013
HYANNIS, Mass. — Last year around this time, about 30 people donned helmets and got on bicycles to ride some of the Cape's most scenic routes.
But the riders, disabled veterans who were part of the Wounded Warrior Project's Soldier Ride Boston, were here for more than fun in the sun.
"It was a mission, not just a fun thing to do ... I saw healing happen," Yarmouth Deputy Police Chief Steven Xiarhos, who helped organize last year's ride with a group of volunteers from Falmouth, Yarmouth and Provincetown, said Friday.
Beginning Wednesday, 44 riders will take part in the second annual Cape leg of Soldier Ride Boston, up from 29 during last year's inaugural Cape ride.
Over four days, the veterans — some of whom have physical injuries, Xiarhos said, but many of them with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries — meet and bond over their tasks, which include exercise and nearly 60 miles of bike rides.
Adaptive equipment, such as hand cycles and trikes, is provided to riders who need it.
Throughout, the goal is to boost self-confidence and show the veterans they aren't alone in the difficulties they've faced since returning from combat.
"The idea is to make them into a platoon again," Xiarhos said. "And if that bike doesn't work, it's their job to make it move."
The Soldier Ride, which has 17 versions across the United States and Germany, is a "physical health and wellness program ... which focuses on helping Wounded Warrior Project alumni heal through a variety of programs focused on mind, body, economic empowerment and engagement," according to a statement from the organization.
On Wednesday, riders will arrive at Cape Cod Irish Village in South Yarmouth to be fitted with the adaptive equipment if they need it.
Then on Thursday, they will ride from the start of the Cape Cod Rail Trail in South Dennis to Lecount Hollow Road in Wellfleet.
They will then be taken by bus into Provincetown, where they will have lunch and go out on a whale-watch boat.
On Friday, the group will ride along the Shining Sea Bikeway in Falmouth before heading to Boston to take in a Red Sox game.
And on Saturday, the veterans will take part in a ride in Concord that is open to the public.
Along each leg of the Cape ride, the community is invited to cheer the riders on — something Xiarhos said was extremely moving last year.
"To see hundreds of little kids in Falmouth on the bike trail, holding flags with their teachers, it was powerful," he said.