The Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride began in 2004 when civilian Chris Carney rode more than 5,000 miles in support of the Wounded Warrior Project.
A year later, several combat veterans with visible and invisible wounds joined Carney on another cross-country trek. And in 2006, WWP adopted the event as a rehab-through-cycling program, one of the many programs and events the it provides soldiers and veterans who have been injured while serving in the Armed Forces.
The ride restores the mental and physical well-being of soldiers who have suffered brain injuries, spinal injuries, lost limbs or have had other injuries. They are provided with upright, recumbent or hand-crank bicycles designed and adapted for their special injuries. It challenges them to discover possibilities and capabilities they forgot they had and develop a renewed hope for the future.
Since the first WWP Soldier Ride through Williamson County in 2008, the ride has been dedicated to the memory of Master Sgt. James “Tre” Ponder, a Franklin native who was killed in Afghanistan on June 28, 2005. Ponder, a member of the 160th Special Operations Regiment (Airborne) at Fort Campbell, was among 16 killed when their helicopter was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade during a mission to rescue four Navy SEALS.
Every year the Soldier Ride begins and ends at Battle Ground academy, Ponder’s alma mater. This year Ponder’s parents, James and Bethany Ponder, were on hand to see the soldiers off.
The 38 cyclists riding this year included every branch of the military, according to Mike Owens, the soldier ride manager, a Marine and a wounded warrior. Their average age was 38. The group, which included six women, came from all over the country.
They arrived on Friday and spent a full day getting fitted for their bikes, meeting other riders and renewing the camaraderie and companionship they grew to depend on in the military.
Later that day, they took part in a 17-mile ride from Franklin to Water Valley, with a stop in Leiper’s Fork, where they received a warm welcome. Unfortunately one soldier was called home after the ride and another suffered an injury during the ride, Owens said.
On Saturday, after a short ceremony, the group departed the BGA campus at about 8:45 a.m. and rode through subdivisions west of Franklin, stopping for breaks at Berry’s Chapel and Westhaven before returning to BGA via Main Street, where they received another warm welcome.
The Wounded Warrior Project provides a means for veterans to discover their new normal after experiencing life-changing injuries. WWP provides wounded soldiers physical and mental rehabilitation and helps them discover hope for a productive life and a new future in which their disability doesn’t define them.
For more information about the Wounded Warrior Project go to www.woundedwarriorproject.org.
Carole Robinson may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.