On July 23 of last year, my life changed when I was injured by an improvised explosive device (IED) while serving with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. The blast gave me a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and resulted in the amputation of both my legs.
For most of the year that has passed between my injuries and now, I have been in constant rehabilitation and recovery at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. A year is an incredibly long time to spend in a hospital.
In April, I had the opportunity to cycle for the first time in Wounded Warrior Project's Soldier Ride, a cycling event that takes place around the U.S. to help veterans like me recover from our physical injuries, as well as the invisible ones. It was one of the very first times I'd left Walter Reed since my admission, and the chance to meet with other veterans, many of whom were dealing with injuries just like mine, was a significant stepping stone in my healing process.
I consider myself physically recovered -- I use a hand cycle to participate in Soldier Ride and I've grown accustomed to prosthetics and the rehabilitation I need to stay physically strong. I still struggle, however, with TBI.
Last week in New York, I got another break from my continued recovery at Walter Reed and am cycling again with Soldier Ride. We were welcomed by the New York Yankees, and rode through the streets of Manhattan and laid a memorial wreath at Ground Zero, a catastrophic moment in our history that inspired many of us to serve and defend our country.
Along the way children and students, office and construction workers often line the streets to wave and cheer. For many riders, the public support is one of the most meaningful parts of these events, but for me it's the camaraderie with other wounded warriors that helps the most. On Soldier Ride New York, warriors from Great Britain and Israel joined in the ride and it's been an amazing experience to meet with other veterans from around the world and to recognize that we're all going through the same things.
This experience is at the heart of Soldier Ride, and it's helped veterans like me for nearly eight years. Programs like this help get us out of the hospital and out of the house, regain our physical and mental strength, and most importantly, help show us that recovery is possible. It returns a sense of the teamwork and camaraderie we often lose when injuries separate us from our units. Every mile I complete on my hand cycle is a victory, and Soldier Ride has allowed me to see the world in a different way.
Images courtesy of the Wounded Warrior Project