The Freedom Bike Ride has become one of the most unique ways for civilians, servicemembers and veterans to honor fallen troops, and the third annual event recently kicked off at one of the most solemn areas in the U.S. About 25 cyclists began their five-day journey June 25 at Arlington National Cemetery. The ride is expected to be completed in Lewisburg, Pa., where the participants will arrive just in time for the town's Fourth of July celebration.
A new tradition
This is just the third year the Freedom Bike Ride has been held, but it is already recognized as a considerable success. Some of the participants are wounded warriors who must use hand cycles to complete the journey, while others took a more traditional route. Regardless of their mode of transportation, all riders have one thing in mind – honoring servicemembers both past and present. This is reflected in some of the landmarks they've visited in previous rides including last year, when they started their trip at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
"This year, we picked a starting location that I consider to be the most hallowed ground in the United States," Sgt. Maj. Kevin Bittenbender said in a press release. "And that's Arlington National Cemetery."
Troops honored many different ways
Lengthy journeys have become a popular way to pay tribute to the men and women of the military, and cycling seems like a smart choice given it's one that appeals to injured troops. So it should come as no surprise that the The Wounded Warrior Soldier Ride has been a big hit. This program focuses on the rehabilitation of wounded servicemembers by outfitting them with adaptive bikes and taking them on two days of rides. For Therese Mangham, who was injured in Iraq in 2008, it was a big help.
"It was very difficult," Mangham, told CBS affiliate KDKA. "I wasn't getting a lot of support through the VA, and the Wounded Warrior Project, they came in and filled in the gaps where the VA wasn't."
Any events that help recognize the sacrifice of wounded warriors are certainly a worthwhile cause. According to statistics from the Department of Defense, more than 50,000 troops have been injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.