Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride bikes through Maryland, DC-Metro area
By PHIL DAVIS | The Capital, Annapolis, Md. | Published: April 6, 2017
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Tribune News Service) — A group of veterans decked out in performance cycling apparel gathered Wednesday outside of the fire station off of Bay Ridge Road in Annapolis, exchanging greetings and stories about their hometowns.
It was the Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride, a four-day bike ride in the D.C.-Metro area that uses cycling to bring together veterans from across the country as a sort of physical and mental rehabilitative program.
According to the group, the ride will culminate at the White House where President Donald Trump will honor wounded veterans with a special ceremony. Joined by police and firefighters, Soldier Ride manager Adam Faine told the group they all share a similar trait.
"I can't think of a better place to start a ride like this than a firehouse to honor post-9/11 wounded warriors," Faine said. "Military, fireman, police, EMS, you're all cut of the same thread. It's that's call to service."
He added that answering that call to service often times comes at a price.
"That service for our wounded warriors comes at a cost," Faine said. "That cost is the visible wounds you can see and the invisible wounds you can't see."
Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh and Annapolis Mayor Michael Pantelides both gave brief remarks before the participants raced off toward the Spa Creek Bridge.
Schuh said he counted about 15 states represented at the event and reflected on the toll military service can have on its members.
"This event also reminds us that war and conflict have consequences and sometimes our warriors return home with physical and mental challenges," Schuh said. "And that makes the sacrifice that you made greater than many of us will never know."
Pantelides took on largely the same tone, saying he had several family members who served in the military, including two grandparents who served in World War II.
"We know the road to recovery doesn't happen overnight, but we're here for you in the long haul," Pantelides said.
Jake Kokowicz, 26, of Germantown wrangled with his attire a few minutes before the group took off, struggling to find pocket space on his skin tight clothing.
The Marine said he lost the arm not through combat, but because he was struck by a drunken driver while he was riding his motorcycle.
Before the accident, he had spent the day with friends celebrating what was supposed to be his first combat deployment as a Marine, he said.
Asked what challenges service members face when recovering from major injuries, Kokowicz dismissed the idea that military servicemen and women face any specific barriers.
"We all look at ourselves the same," Kokowicz said. "Whether we were combat deployed or not, we all took the same oath."
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President Donald Trump speaks at the White House during an event honoring veterans who participated in the Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride on April 6, 2017.
THE WHITE HOUSE