Updated: June 23, 2014 at 9:03 am
Eight Special Operations Forces veterans who experienced life-altering events took back their freedom and independence and helped each other complete a 10-day motorcycle ride across the nation from Seattle to Tampa, Fla.
They visited Colorado along the way during the inaugural adventure of Project Road Warrior on June 5-14.
"We wanted to take special operations wounded or injured, veterans or active duty, on this ride as a way to really focus on bringing all these Type A personalities together and inspire others along the way," said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Alex Eudy, a native of Englewood and an Air Force special operations weather technician, who was injured when the vehicle he was in hit a bomb in January 2009 in Afghanistan, crushing his feet and ankles.
With the help of special braces that keep much of the pressure off his feet, Eudy continues to serve on active duty at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland where he helps other wounded vets. He said he was fortunate to take part in the ride, which he and his fellow riders dubbed "adventure therapy."
"It's cathartic. It takes you out of everything else. For 10 straight days all I'm focusing on is my brothers- and sisters-in-arms, the folks that I've met," Eudy said. "Here we are a bunch of wounded and injured vets helping each other out, and just laughing about it."
Air Force Academy classmates Maj. Craig Anders and Stephen Berger dreamed up the ride after reading about a scooter run from Alaska to Louisiana's Gulf Coast. Anders, who formerly piloted the Air Force's E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System until he was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2010, said the plan was originally for a scooter ride for beneficiaries of U.S. Special Operations Command's Care Coalition. The organization supports Special Operations Forces who are wounded, ill or injured and their families.
He said the Can-Am Spyder proved to be a more practical ride and Can-Am agreed to provide nine of the three wheeled motorcycles for the group at no cost.
"There are some folks here who are different people today. It is therapy," Anders said.
"You get around like-minded individuals in similar situations and you take some bad memories and replace them with good ones."
It would be hard to dispute the capabilities of champion wheelchair athlete Anthony Radetic, whose career as an Army aviator was cut short by a motorcycle accident in 2004, which left him paralyzed from the waist down.
For Anthony, Project Road Warrior brings him a sense of normalcy.
"Right now I'm in a wheelchair, definitely different than everyone else here. But on a bike, I'm hanging with these guys. When I pull up to a light, no one even knows I'm in a wheelchair," Radetic said. "It's an equalizer."
Anders said the riders met many supportive vets and riders along the trip, including some from the Wyoming American Legion who cut patches off their vests to give to Project Road Warrior riders, making them honorary members of WALRUS, the Wyoming American Legion Riders of the United States.