Bike Riders Raise Money for Injured Troops
By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 13, 2005 Four thousand miles is a long distance to travel, especially if the mode of transportation is a bicycle.
From the left, Soldier Ride 2005 participants Heath Calhoun, Ryan Kelly and Chris Carney lock hands in Marina Del Ray, Calif., before departing on their 4,200-mile cross-country bicycle ride to benefit wounded servicemembers. Courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The riders of Soldier Ride 2005 intend to trek 4,200 miles from Marina Del Ray, Calif., to Montauk, N.Y., on the eastern tip of Long Island to raise money for injured servicemembers.
The riders began their journey May 21 and are scheduled to conclude July 19.
Chris Carney, a bartender at Stephen Talkhouse music club in East Hampton, N.Y., founded the nonprofit Soldier Ride after he visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center here with his friend and boss Peter Honerkamp. Carney was so moved by what he saw at Walter Reed that he came up with the idea for a cross-country bicycle ride to raise funds for the Wounded Warrior Project, he said.
"Once we visited with these incredibly brave men and women, we were totally committed to do whatever it takes to help them," Carney said.
The Wounded Warrior Project provides free services and counseling for severely wounded troops from the time they arrive at the hospital through their recovery and rehabilitation stages. John Melia, a former Marine who was injured in a 1992 helicopter crash off the coast of Somalia, is a WWP founder.
"We at Wounded Warrior Project feel Soldier Ride is an amazing initiative, and it fits perfectly with our mission of assisting severely wounded servicemembers, and honoring the courage of these men and women," Melia said.
In 2004 Carney raised more than $2 million for WWP by cycling in the opposite direction, from Montauk to San Diego.
This year Carney has enlisted Heath Calhoun and Ryan Kelly as riding partners with the goal of raising $5 million.
Both Calhoun and Kelly lost limbs in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Calhoun is a double leg amputee and Kelly lost his right leg just below the knee.
Calhoun served as a squad leader with the Army's 3rd Battalion, 327th Infantry, from the 101st Airborne Division. A rocket-propelled grenade hit his truck on Nov. 7, 2003, causing such severe damage that both of his legs had to be amputated above the knee.
Calhoun rides a special handcycle that he pedals with his arms.
Kelly was with the Army's 490th Civil Affairs Battalion, out of Abilene, Texas.
"Kelly was on his way to a conference on rebuilding the country's schools and hospitals when his convoy was ambushed. An explosive devise destroyed his right leg," said Nicci Zizelis, lead coordinator for Soldier Ride 2005.
Along the way, the riders will participate in a number of special events. For instance, Calhoun threw out the first pitch at Dodger Stadium on May 23, and when they arrived in Las Vegas on May 26, the mayor declared it "Soldier Ride Day."
Other amputees from the war in Iraq will also join the ride at various stages, Zizelis said.
According to a press release, "Soldier Ride and Cannondale Bicycle Corp. are outfitting wounded soldiers with bikes and any prosthetic adaptation that's needed. Organizers are working closely with the experts at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to ensure the soldiers get the appropriate equipment, so they're able to not only manage the bike for this venture, but also keep this equipment and enjoy its use for years to come."
Carney said that even though he has never been in the military, he believes it is his duty to serve the nation by helping to care for severely wounded servicemembers, and that he feels great doing it.
"This is by far the most rewarding thing I've done in my life," Carney said.