Veterans making trek from Atlanta to New Orleans

Published 12:59 pm Friday, March 4, 2016

Nearly 200 veterans taking part in the Ride 2 Recovery Gulf Coast Challenge are expected to make a stop in Greenville on Wednesday. (File Photo)

Nearly 200 veterans taking part in the Ride 2 Recovery Gulf Coast Challenge are expected to make a stop in Greenville on Wednesday. (File Photo)

More than 150 veterans are expected to roll through the Camellia City on Wednesday as part of the Ride 2 Recovery Gulf Coast Challenge.

The six-day ride, which begins on Sunday in Atlanta, will cover more than 400 miles and will come to an end March 11 in New Orleans.

Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon said he’s excited that the riders will be making a stop in the Camellia City for a second straight year.

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“We’re going to really put the red carpet out for them,” said McLendon. “They deserve it. This is important.”

Ride 2 Recovery supports physical and psychological rehabilitation programs for injured veterans. From indoor spinning training at military installations to multiday, long-distance rides, Ride 2 Recovery helps injured veterans heal through the challenge of cycling long distances using hand cycles, recumbents, tandems and traditional upright bikes.

McLendon said Greenville Police Chief Lonzo Ingram and Greenville Fire Chief Chad Phillips spearheaded an effort to raise funds to purchase a bicycle for a veteran.

“We raised $2,500 for that, so I really appreciate them doing that,” McLendon said.

The riders taking part in the challenge share many common bonds as veterans, and some say the level of catharsis offered by Ride 2 Recovery is unparalleled.

“The UnitedHealthcare Ride 2 Recovery Challenge Series is all about restoring hope and purpose by providing mental and physical challenges that help veterans get their life back,” said John Wordin, president and founder, Ride 2 Recovery. “There are veterans who come to these rides not just to help themselves, but to help each other. This program is unique because the vets set goals for themselves, and we combine hard work with the reward of completing their goal while pushing them past what they thought they could accomplish. For these men and women, the addition of cycling to their physical and mental rehabilitation becomes life-changing.”

One such veteran is Michael Lage, who was part of last year’s tour that rolled through Greenville.

Lage has been deployed three times with the U.S Army, the last of which concluded in 2007.

The experience left Lage with an amputated left hand and right thumb, burns that once covered 39 percent of his entire body, a neck fracture, a lost spleen and an elbow fusion that prevents him from straightening his left arm.

After an extensive recovery, Lage saw fit to gear up for the Ride 2 Recovery challenge in 2013 and hasn’t looked back since.

“Not only does it give me exercise, but it also gets me back into the community,” Lage said. “It helps me work with other soldiers that are injured, as well.”

The riders are expected to reach Greenville around noon on Wednesday. Last year the riders made their pit stop at Beeland Park where they were greeted by city officials and members of the VFW Post 24.