President Obama welcomed two dozen injured U.S. servicemen and women participating in the 34-mile Wounded Warrior bicycle race to the White House Friday, reminding the audience that they were in the “presence of heroes.”
Roughly 200 people attended the event on the White House’s South Lawn, including members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.
“You ride because you can, and you ride for those who can’t,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s what this is all about.”
Mr. Obama also joked that the founder of the event, civilian Chris Carney, came up with the idea for the Soldier Ride to raise awareness about the plight of soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq while working as a bartender in Long Island, N.Y.
Mr. Carney’s idea was “better than most of the ideas that come out of bars,” the president said to laughs. “At least that’s been my experience.”
Calling the Soldier Ride one of the most inspiring events he’s had at the White House, Mr. Obama recognized several participants, including Corpsman 3rd Class Max Rohn, who the president first met in the hospital when Mr. Rohn was recovering from a grenade attack that cost him his leg in Fallujah, Iraq.
The president also mentioned Leslie Smith — who lost her leg and eyesight after serving in Bosnia — as well as the the Schei brothers, Erik and Deven. During his second tour in Iraq, Erik Schei was shot in the hand by a sniper. Deven Schei, who enlisted after his brother, was injured in Afghanistan.
“And now the two brothers ride a specially-made tandem bike, with Deven leading the way,” Mr. Obama said. “They’re taking on this latest challenge just like they did every other — together.”
After Mr. Obama’s brief remarks, he directed the soldiers participating in the race to ride a couple of laps around the South Lawn.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki congratulated the soldiers on participating in the race and said that he was “proud about what you’re doing to strengthen yourself.”
The event marked the sixth time the Wounded Warrior Project, a group designed to honor and empower injured military personnel and help restore their physical and emotional well-being, has brought soldiers to the White House to commemorate the Soldier Ride. It caps several days of cycling throughout Washington, D.C., Annapolis and North Beach, Md.
Soldiers of all ability levels participate in Soldier Ride, which takes place in 11 cities across the United States and raises awareness for our nation’s injured servicemen and women and their ongoing battle with the physical and psychological scars of war. The Wounded Warrior Project provides riders with various injuries and disabilities with adaptive hand cycles, trikes and bicycles at no cost to the soldiers.