As LDR put it, this experience is unforgettable. It was a pleasure to work so hard for something so worthwhile. I cannot fathom the amount of planning and adjusting that goes into an event such as this, but somehow, it ran smoothly and allowed the riders to concentrate on the ride, while all other details were taken care of.
There were many memorable moments, but these stick out in my mind:
*Watching Walter Reed's CSM coin a Marine who was at Iwo Jima and offer heartfelt thanks for his service. The respect and reverence were palpable.
*Seeing familiar faces, both as volunteers and as riders; what a great bonding experience.
*Appreciating all the groups that came out to assist at the rest and meal stops. Whether it was a church group, the Boy Scouts or others, our riders were greeted warmly and enthusiastically at every stop, with banners hung to welcome each rider as they finished one more leg of the ride.
*Laughing with our warriors at various rest stops, as they explained, often in great comedic detail, what it would take to ease the discomfort of riding such a great distance. I learned of products I never knew existed.
*Admiring how fellow riders offered assistance to those who struggled, regardless of branch, rank or injury.
*Witnessing wounded warriors, riding alongside their military brothers as well as civilians, all sharing one road, all striving to complete the grueling ride in relentless heat. It was truly incredible seeing the sense of accomplishment and renewed faith in themselves.
*Standing at the finish line in Gettysburg, as the riders arrived all at once, being led by those on hand cranked cycles, amid the cheers of the crowd that gathered, under a beautiful American flag blowing in the wind.
This was truly an amazing experience and one I encourage participation in, whether it is as a volunteer or rider. Next year, give an hour, a day, or a weekend to assist during the ride and make memories of your own...