Commander, Submarine Group Two

Photo courtesy of Lt. Heather Sterk.

SUBASE Cyclers Gearing up to Ride with Wounded Veterans

HARTFORD, Conn. (NNS) -- Navy Team New London cycling enthusiasts are gearing up to ride with wounded veterans when the third leg of the 2012 Ride2Recovery Minuteman Challenge passes through Naval Submarine Base New London Sept. 12.

Ride2Recovery is a charitable organization that spearheads mental and physical rehabilitation programs for wounded warriors by featuring cycling as a core activity, and the Minuteman Challenge is a multi-day ride which begins Sept. 10 in Boston, Mass. and ends Sept. 15 at West Point, New York.

Some 200 riders, of which the vast majority will be wounded veterans or active-duty members, will wheel through SUBASE during the leg that takes them from Hartford to New London. The route under planning should take the group through the North Gate, down Shark Boulevard, and out the Main Gate late afternoon Sept. 12.

Lt. Heather Sterk, a psychologist at the Naval Health Branch Clinic Groton, said she is excited about this local opportunity after seeing cycling make a difference during her former assignment at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

"When I was stationed in Bethesda in 2010, [I] cofounded the Bethesda Cycling program," said Sterk. "The program at Bethesda was designed to help foster resiliency, symptom relief, and self-esteem in active duty and veterans who had physical and emotional injuries."

Sterk added that veterans at Bethesda not only participated in cycling events across the country but also across the Atlantic. Wounded veterans rode through Normandy and all of the historic D-Day sites in a special trans-Atlantic opportunity.

While the SUBASE Cycling Club has mostly participated in rides closer to home, club members are looking forward to pedaling their show of support for wounded warriors when the Minuteman Challenge comes to SUBASE.

"We do a lot of group rides, charity rides, and races in New England and this provides us an opportunity to give back and share time on the road with some real American heroes," said Lt. Andrew Thorne, president of the SUBASE Cycling Club. "Cycling has positively changed many of our lives, and we're happy to take some time to be a small part of their journey with them."

For Sterk, riding with wounded veterans provides a whole new prospective on life.

"Hearing the stories along the ride is really healing for everyone involved," said Sterk, who will take leave to participate in the Hartford to New London leg, and is supporting a Groton veteran from Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom who will participate in the entire ride. "To be a part of it you get the opportunity to see the positive attitudes of the veterans simply getting out there and living life."

Thorne is looking beyond the base cycling club for participation.

"We're trying to maximize local participation because this is a great way to support our fellow veterans," Thorne said.

Interested active duty and family members, and retirees, with cycling experience, are encouraged to contact the SUBASE Cycling Club via email,
subasecycling@gmail.com, for more information. The cost to participate in the Hartford to New London leg of the Ride2Recovery Minuteman Challenge is $50 for active-duty military and retirees, and $75 for others.