Warriors on wheels Wounded vets ride to generate awareness

Chris Semple and the Warrior Ride participants made The Citadel one of their stops Thursday.

Marine Staff Sgt. Brandon Laird, who completed two tours in Iraq, said bicycling with the Warrior Ride helps him manage the stress of living with a severe facial injury.

Laird was back in the United States when he was accidentally shot in the face with a shotgun in 2011. He now is stationed at Camp LeJeune in North Carolina, and was one of about 30 wounded veterans who participated in the ride Thursday.

Warrior Ride founder Bob Racine said he organizes the group rides in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Pennsylvania to generate support and awareness of the sacrifices made by service members. Racine, a veteran who completed three tours in Vietnam, said the rides are open to veterans of all ages from any branch of the service.

Many veterans withdraw and isolate after they are injured, he said. The rides “help them to refine the skills and courage to go back out in public.”

Army Spc. Joseph Tindall, 24, a graduate of Woodland High School in St. George, said he suffered a knee injury during training that physically limited him. He was able to complete a tour in Iraq, he said, but struggled with the injury. He’s now in the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Jackson.

Bicycling with veterans’ groups has given him a way to work out without exacerbating his injury, he said. He recently completed a week-long ride from New Orleans to Tallahassee, Fla.

Thursday’s ride started in Waterfront Park in Mount Pleasant. Bikers traveled across the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge to The Citadel, then to the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, Patriots Point and the Isle of Palms VFW.

At 9 a.m. today, the group will be greeted by hundreds of employees at Santee Cooper headquarters at 1 Riverwood Drive in Moncks Corner. Lowcountry residents are encouraged to show their support by watching the parade and cheering them along.

People who come out to see a Warrior Ride often are moved by the veterans’ strength, Racine said. They are an inspiring group of people, he added.

“I’ll be working with soldiers the rest of my life.”