Wounded Warriors from four nations, supporters ride together on 9/11

September 12, 2011

Staff Sgt. Brooks Fletcher, U.S. Army Europe Public Affairs

U.S. Army Europe

Photo credit Charles M. Belluomo

Riders from U.S. Army in Europe and German communities take a break during the 18-mile ride of the Community Soldier Ride at Lake Bostalsee, Germany, Sept. 11. Approximately 400 participants gathered to support 48 wounded warriors participating in the ride. Soldier Ride is sponsored by the Wounded Warrior Project and provides wounded warriors the opportunity to reclaim their confidence and strength through cycling.
-- Approximately 400 Soldiers, Family members, civilian employees and other military community members volunteered, rode, cheered and otherwise lent their support to 48 wounded warriors from the U.S., Germany, the Republic of Georgia, and Romania during the Community Soldier Ride at Lake Bostalsee in southwest Germany Sept. 11.

The date of the event was no coincidence. During the opening ceremony, the participants and their supporters observed a moment of silence to honor those who lost their lives in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania to the terrorist attacks in 2001.

In his remarks during the ceremony, Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, U.S. Army Europe’s commanding general, reminded the audience the terrorist attacks were not just an attack on the U.S. He said people from 71 other countries lost their lives that day as well.

“The dignity and humanity of the world were attacked that day,” Hertling said. “What we’ve done over the past few years is fight back. We have rebounded and come together to show that we are going to fight for liberty, the dignity of man and freedom, and that there is no extremist that can take those kinds of things away from us.”

Fighting back in pursuit of the ‘new normal,’ is exactly what wounded warriors do during their journey to recovery.

Recently released from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center,Senior Lt. George Arabuli with the Georgian Army expressed his sincere gratitude for being able to participate in the event.

“This is the best time for me,” said Arubuli, who spent almost 50 days in the hospital after losing his right leg in an improvised explosive device blast. “You just have to keep pushing, be strong and everything is going to be okay.”

The community ride was the culmination of a three-day Soldier Ride, a Wounded Warrior Project initiative that provides rehabilitative cycling opportunities to help America’s newest generation of wounded warriors restore their physical and emotional well-being.

Staff Sgt. Mary Bernice Cervantes-Martinez with the Warrior Transition Battalion described the event as simply, “liberating.”

“To come out here ride and leave all my worries and stress out on the road feels good,” said Cervantes-Martinez. “The people with WWP are amazing. They are supportive and care about you. It’s just nice!”

For community rider Leah Bradley, the opportunity to come out and support the wounded warriors was a great honor.

“Coming out to commemorate 9/11 and recognizing those that have sacrificed so much is a great way for the community to show their support,” said Bradley.

Bradley, who has worked with wounded warriors before, explained that for many people the only time they see wounded warriors is on television. So, to come to events like the Community Soldier Ride and meet them is inspiring.

“To see these [wounded warriors] get back to leading normal lives and doing things that they were doing before is amazing,” said Bradley.