Obama Welcomes Soldier Ride Participants at White House
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 17, 2013 A group of wounded warriors received a presidential send-off at the White House today as they launched a four-day bicycle ride to show the world and themselves what they’re still capable of accomplishing.
President Barack Obama joined Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki on the South Lawn this afternoon to recognize a group of wounded warriors who are participating in the Soldier Ride for their service, sacrifice and inspiration.
That inspiration is particularly meaningful as the nation grapples with this week’s bomb attacks at the Boston Marathon, the president told the riders. Many of the survivors of the attacks are just beginning what for some will be a long road to recovery, he noted.
“It’s a road that the remarkable warriors and athletes here know all too well, and as a consequence, they are going to serve for all of the families as well as all Americans, a continued inspiration,” he said.
Obama praised the wounded warriors’ bravery and said he admires their courage and determination.
“Together, with your outstanding families, you represent what’s best in America,” he said. “When we needed patriots to defend our freedom, you have answered this call. You’ve risked everything for our country and for each other. And you’ve made sacrifices most of us can barely imagine.”
With military operations completed in Iraq and the drawdown underway in Afghanistan, the president acknowledged that “for our wounded warriors, coming home doesn’t mean the fight is over.”
“In some ways,” he said, “it’s just beginning.”
The president singled out riders, including Army Sgt. Sean Karpf and Army Sgt. Erick Millette, who are overcoming the odds and providing an example to their fellow wounded warriors and the nation. He also recognized Air Force Capt. Mary McGriff and Army 1st Lt. Jason Church, who are serving as peer mentors for first-time riders.
“That’s a big part of what the soldier rides are about -- not just what you can do for yourself, but what you can do as a team,” he said. “As one rider put it, ‘It’s just like in the military. You ride for the warrior next to you.’”
Chris Carney, from Long Island, N.Y., conducted the first soldier ride in 2004, when he pedaled across the country in support of the Wounded Warrior Project. Obama noted today that Carney told a reporter the most daunting part of that ride was being alone because he’d always participated in team sports.
Other combat-wounded veterans joined Carney the following year, and the program continued to grow. It ultimately gave rise to regional rides nationwide that provide more riders the opportunity to participate.
“What Chris and others discovered is that when it comes to supporting our returning heroes, there’s no such thing as going it alone,” Obama said. “We do this as a team. We get each other’s backs.”
That’s what happened this week in Boston, as National Guardsmen, service members and veterans in the area “all did what warriors do,” the president said. “They ran into harm’s way to protect their fellow Americans. They applied tourniquets. They went to hospitals. They donated blood.”
Doctors used experience acquired, in some cases, during overseas deployments, “to help save lives here at home,” he said.
“That’s the strong stuff that our warriors are made of, and that’s why we’re so proud and so grateful to the men and women and veterans of our armed forces,” Obama said.
He called on all Americans to cheer on the riders during their ride and to show support for the nation’s military veterans.
Obama vowed to veterans to “keep doing everything in my power to make sure we serve you as well as you’ve served us.” That, he said, means ensuring they get the care and benefits they need, that they don’t have to fight for jobs when they return home and that their families get the support they deserve.
Soldier Rides are sponsored by the Wounded Warrior Project as a rehabilitative cycling program that provides the first steps in combat-wounded veterans’ healing. The events are designed to “use cycling and the bonds of service to overcome physical, mental or emotional wounds,” according the Wounded Warrior Project website.