April 27 marked the second day of the Warrior 100K mountain bike ride dedicated to the U.S. service men and women wounded during combat.
“There are 19 of us here and it is just a testament to all of us who have overcome these traumatic instances, overcome these obstacles, these barriers to get here,” Melissa Stockwell, a First Lieutenant of the U.S. Army and member of the Board of Directors for the Wounded Warrior Project, said. “Having President Bush here as our leader and just support riding with us and being there at the finish line is what America is all about, and I think we are all extremely proud Americans with our injuries and with what we have overcome.”
Stockwell said Palo Duro Canyon is a beautiful place with well-maintained routes, an opinion shared by many of the participants at the bike ride.
“This is absolutely beautiful,” said John P. Szczepanowski, Gunnery Sergeant with the U.S. Marine Corps and a wounded warrior program coordinator. “Mathew [one of his colleges] and I are both from San Diego so we came out here and witnessed some of these Texan’s hospitality. It is just something I will never forget.”
Dan Gade, U.S. Army Major, said there were a couple of places around the route that, because of his leg amputation, are too steep. However, there were people positioned in these locations ahead of time to help him and others who needed it.
“I think that is a very cool micro view of what the American people are doing with returning veterans in the macro view, which is waiting for guys who need help and helping them when they need help, but not giving them help when they don’t need help,” he said. “I think that is very special and so this has been a really cool chance for me to kind of see what the American people are doing in a tiny little view of the big picture.”
This is the second year for the Warrior 100K ride, and it is part of the George W. Bush Presidential Center’s Military Service Initiative.
“I think first of all one of the reasons we have the W100 is to encourage people to ask that very question (how to support Wounded Warriors locally),” former President Bush said. “I think the best support you can give is help find jobs.”
He said there is support for helping the physically wounded.
“To welcome to the community and to encourage employers to go out of the way to hire somebody, I think it is probably the best gift someone in Amarillo can give to a vet,” he said.
He also said these warriors have a diverse set of skills.
“It seems like to me if you have somebody working with you that says ‘look I am not a selfish person, I am willing to serve something greater than myself,’ well that is what all these vets have done,” Bush said.