About 25 soldiers of the “Wounded Warrior Project,” rode their bicycles from the White House to the Montauk Lighthouse last weekend. This “Project” is a national non-profit, non-political organization aimed at assisting the men and women of the United States Armed Forces who have been severely injured during war time.
Nick Kraus, a promoter of the Stephen Talkhouse, followed these veterans on their whole trip, starting with the first leg of their ride from Washington, D.C. to Baltimore’s inner harbor last Wednesday. Kraus was one of the original founders of “Soldier Ride, in 2004, along with Talkhouse owner Peter Honerkamp and Chris Carney, who rode his bike across the country from Montauk to California, in 2004. He helped to start this organization, which has so far taken in millions of dollars for wounded vets.
“Last week, these guys did this trip in several stretches of about 60 miles each, so that they wouldn’t tire out,” said Kraus. “They all have serious war injuries, and many are amputees, double and even triple amputees, riding their bikes with the use of prosthetic legs.” He said on Thursday, the bikers left Baltimore and rode to Ground Zero in Manhattan. Here they did a sendoff with firefighters at Engine Firehouse #10, along with members of the NYPD. The bikers also did a lap around Central Park. On Friday, they drove their bikes out to Orient Point, and on Saturday, they did another 60-mile bike ride from Orient Point down to Montauk. On the way, they stopped at Claudio’s Restaurant in Greenport for lunch, and then rode out to East Hampton, where they were joined by the local boy scouts who rode with them to Amagansett. The veterans then rode out to the lighthouse, stopping for drinks and hors d’oeuvres, complements of the Surfside Inn in Montauk. They then rode back to Amagansett, for a dinner at the American Legion Hall there.
Joining this group of injured young veterans who fought in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, were five injured Israeli soldiers, who participated in the bike ride to learn how to start a similar injured soldiers ride in Israel.
“It was very interesting to meet them, and they were enthusiastic about starting this in their own country,” said Kraus. “We’re also working with some soldiers to start a Soldier Ride in England.”
Kraus explained, “We do these rides to raise funds and awareness of the needs of these veterans when they return from war, and we also do it to show them they can still go out and have fun.”
He said, “It’s a humbling and inspirational experience to see these guys who are determined to ride with one leg, or with hand cycles, and we even had a blind vet riding on the back of a tandem bike. By doing this incredible feat, they are showing themselves and other vets that their life isn’t over just because they’re injured. It helps to energize them and everyone who comes in contact with them.”
Kraus said so far, Soldier Ride has done two Miami-Key West trips over the winter, and three cross-country trips, with wounded soldiers. This branch of Wounded Warriors helps raise money and awareness for them.
The “Wounded Warrior Project” raises money, through private donations and sponsorships, to help wounded soldiers make an easier transition to society once they return from wars. It helps pay for “comfort packs,” which include much-needed phone cards, walkmans, toiletries, and other personal items they may need. It also helps pay for counseling services, to help cope with post-traumatic syndrome in their readjustment back home.
Some of this year’s sponsors included Cracker Barrel restaurants, which fed the bikers across the trip, AIG, an insurance company which helped underwrite the ride, and U-Haul, which gave trucks and sold wristbands at their different locations. Over the past three years, nearly a half-million dollars was raised by U-Haul for the “Wounded Warriors Project.” Some of the money is also used to help send the families of injured soldiers to visit them .
“This project helps to fill the void with extra things the soldiers need when they come home,” said Kraus. “Project members work with the Veterans Administration to help transition them and raise awareness about their needs. We sent them over there, and now we need to take care of them when they return.”