The journey across Kentucky continues Thursday morning for 150 military veterans taking part in the Ride 2 Recovery Bluegrass Challenge.
Dan Wermuth was an avid cyclist growing up. But a broken back suffered during the Vietnam War kept him away from the bike for years. That was until a Ride 2 Recovery event came through the Florida town in which he was living. Since then, he’s taken part in 10 rides, but many of his fellow cyclists are much younger veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I have a lot of connection with them because…especially coming from the era that I did – they didn’t appreciate us so much when we came home. That’s an understatement. We will not let that happen for our young guys,” said Wermuth.
He says his role is to help, encourage and push the younger veterans.
“Yesterday we were riding, coming into Fort Knox. I was coming up on somebody, we were lagging, we were tired—big hills, real tough riding. And somebody hollered at the guy next to me, ‘don’t let that old guy take you!’ and so he started kickin’ it and he started pedaling," said Wermuth. "Well [I thought] ‘I can’t let the young punk kick me either.’ I got ticked and we started yelling at each other and then we had a wonderful time – giving each other energy and encouragement and we finished the day.”
The cyclists began their 450-mile journey in Covington, Kentucky Sunday. They from Elizabethtown Wednesday morning and stopped at the Wigwam Village for lunch a lunch break. Volunteers served snacks and cheered the veterans on as they took off for their next stop.
The UnitedHealthcare Ride 2 Recovery benefits programs that use cycling for both mental and physical rehabilitation of military veterans. Some veterans ride standard bikes, while others who’ve lost limbs ride handcycles or recumbent bicycles.
One of those younger veterans, Mike Lage was in the military for 18 years, did three tours in Iraq and now works at Fort Sam Houston in Texas.
“I ride for all my brothers and sisters that couldn’t make it,” Lage said. “I lost quite a few people over in Iraq. I ride for them; I ride for myself and for my family. It’s great to just see everyone come out. It’s a challenge and it’s good to see people push themselves to know what they’re actually capable of.”
The cyclist battled the elements – most notably rain and hail on Monday and Tuesday, but Wednesday was sunny and mild.
The group departments from the Holiday Inn in Bowling Green at 9:15 Thursday morning, heads to Fort Campbell en route the final destination in Nashville on Friday and Saturday.