City streets were invaded by men and women from the armed forces—on bicycles.
U.S. military veterans – many of them Wounded Warriors — biked from Manhattan to the Fort Hamilton Army Base in Brooklyn on Thursday, July 16 to socialize and celebrate their efforts on behalf of the country.
In association with the NYPD and the FDNY, the Wounded Warrior Project organized the 11th annual Soldier Ride, which went through 25 miles of the two boroughs on its third day.
New Yorkers cheered on 54 veterans from a wide range of wars, including Vietnam and Iraq.
Most riders had ailments as a result of their service time, including post-traumatic stress disorder and physical disabilities.
“When you’re active in the military, there’s always good camaraderie. When you’re out, there’s very little camaraderie. But when you come to these events, you see it,” said rider Herb Morales, who served in the U.S. Army’s first infantry division, 1968-1970, during the Vietnam War.
The route started outside Fox & Friends’ studio around 8 a.m. It went through Manhattan to the Fire Department headquarters in Brooklyn where riders and volunteers laid wreaths for fallen veterans and firefighters, before heading to the Bluff at Fort Hamilton for a community picnic and revels.
U.S. veterans rode with six vets from the Israel Defense Forces, eight British Army vets, and FDNY, NYPD and Wounded Warrior Project volunteers, some of whom were in place to help any riders who could not finish.
“You know you’re not forgotten,” Morales said. “You see all the crowds cheering you on with the flags.”
The ride doubled as a fundraiser before it came to the city; the Wounded Warrior Project raised about $100,000 for wounded vets on the first day’s ride in Babylon, N.Y., where more than 1000 people rode through the area, said Dan Schnock, who helped organize the events.
But in his eyes, how the veterans interacted with each other mattered more.
“The true role of the Soldier Ride is to honor and empower these warriors and make them the most adjusted veterans in the history of this nation. And the way we do that is to allow them to have a rehab in mind, body and engagement,” he said. “Bringing them out on a Soldier Ride where they ride with 50 or 60 of their brothers and sisters, where they can lower their defenses, that’s what it’s all about.”
“You automatically feel back to the days when you were in the military and you were active and you had that same support, that same brotherhood,” Morales said.