Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Wounded veterans find camaraderie on cross-state bike ride

TAMPA — When Nathan Hunt looked around at the dozens of cyclists about to embark on a 300-plus-mile ride Saturday, he was motivated by what he saw.

A man without an arm and leg, another with burn scars on his face and yet another with prosthetics below both knees — all gathered to raise money and support for fellow wounded veterans through the Ride 2 Recovery program.

Positioned at the front of the pack, Hunt, 28, had an inspiring story of his own.

The Army sergeant lost both legs in May 2008 after getting hit by an improvised explosive device in Baghdad. He said he immediately wondered, "Okay, what can I do now?" He found his answer on a 27-gear, hand-pedaled bike powered and steered entirely by his arms.

Hunt, who is now retired from the Army and lives in San Antonio, Texas, estimates that he has biked about 3,000 miles since September 2008. Already this year, he participated in Ride 2 Recovery events in Texas, Virginia and California.

"It allows me to know that I can still do things," he said.

Saturday morning marked the kickoff for Ride 2 Recovery's first Florida Challenge, a six-day trek from Tampa to Jacksonville.

Cyclists began on Bayshore Boulevard and will ride through Spring Hill, Gainesville and St. Augustine before participating in the coin toss at the Jaguars football game in Jacksonville on Thursday night.

Decked out in red, white and blue jerseys, participants from across the country met at MacDill Air Force Base for an opening ceremony within sight of a sparkling Tampa Bay.

"You took a different path," Lt. Gen. John Allen told the riders. "You took a path that you know would be fraught with great risks. Thank you for your sacrifices."

In addition to providing bikes and cycling programs for injured veterans, the Ride 2 Recovery program aims to improve their health and morale.

Capt. Anthony Wiggins, a base chaplain, prayed for a safe and therapeutic journey.

"Whatever we face, we do not face alone," he said. "Wherever we go, we do not journey alone. Whenever we suffer, we do not suffer alone."

Ride 2 Recovery has proved that point for Matt Labady, 23, an active Marine based at Camp Pendleton in California. A blast in Iraq left him with spinal and traumatic brain injuries. He can no longer play group sports he loved, such as football.

But he can bike alongside others like him and see that he is not alone.

"I think it helps mentally," he said. "There's more than just me."

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at or (813) 226-3337.

Wounded veterans find camaraderie on cross-state bike ride 12/12/09 [Last modified: Saturday, December 12, 2009 9:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review: Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald team up to cool down the Clearwater Jazz Holiday


    A cool breeze swept through Coachman Park Saturday night. Couple of them, actually.

    Kenny Loggins performed at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday on Oct. 21, 2017.
  2. No. 16 USF hangs on at Tulane, off to first 7-0 start


    NEW ORLEANS — After half a season of mismatches, USF found itself in a grudge match Saturday night.

    USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) runs for a touchdown against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH103
  3. Lightning buries Penguins (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Ryan Callahan spent a lot of time last season rehabilitating his injured hip alongside Steven Stamkos, who was rehabbing a knee after season-ending surgery. During those hours, Callahan noticed two things about Stamkos: his hunger and his excitement to return this season.

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek (29) advances the puck through the neutral zone during the first period of Saturday???‚??„?s (10/21/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  4. Spain planning to strip Catalonia of its autonomy


    BARCELONA, Spain — The escalating confrontation over Catalonia's independence drive took its most serious turn Saturday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced he would remove the leadership of the restive region and initiate a process of direct rule by the central government in Madrid.

    Demonstrators in Barcelona protest the decision to take control of Catalonia to derail the independence movement.
  5. Funeral held for soldier at center of political war of words (w/video)


    COOPER CITY — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

    The casket of Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Miami Gardens, who was killed in an ambush in Niger. is wheeled out after a viewing at the Christ The Rock Church, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017  in Cooper City, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP) FLMIH102