This January’s annual Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California will be particularly special for World TEAM Sports rider Clayton Rankin. Rather than watching the 122nd annual parade on television, Sgt. Rankin will participate from on top the Saving America’s Mustangs float.
Retired from the US Army, Sgt. Rankin rode across North America last summer as a participant in the World TEAM Sports’ Sea to Shining Sea Ride, which covered 3,687 miles in 64 days. A veteran of both Gulf Wars, Sgt. Rankin returned home in 2004 with severe back and brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder, along with a Bronze Star for Valor. He rode the Sea to Shining Sea using a special bike that permitted him to recline flat, relieving pressure on his back.
A director for the non-profit Patriot PAWS, a national program that trains service dogs for disabled veterans, Sgt. Rankin will be accompanied on the float with his service dog, Harley. The Rockwell, Texas organization was founded in 2006 and successfully matches disabled veterans with trained service dogs.
The 55-foot-long float is sponsored by Saving America’s Mustangs, a private foundation started by Madeleine Pickens, wife of Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens. Dedicated to saving wild horses roaming in America’s West, the foundation is creating a horse sanctuary in eastern Nevada, which ultimately might include up to one million acres and 30,000 wild horses. The Tournament of Roses Parade float will feature 35,00 black flowers representing mustangs currently held in federal holding pens. In addition to the participating soldiers, Native Americans will also ride on the float.
Married and the father of three, Sgt. Rankin currently serves as an advocate member of the Army Wounded Warrior Program. In his role with the program, he provides support to severely injured and ill soldiers and their families. “We really love that he is doing so much despite his injuries,” said Saving America’s Mustangs spokesperson Stacie Daigle.
Sgt. Rankin explains that he will be accompanied on the Tournament of Roses Parade float with other service members, including five disabled veterans with personal service dogs, five active duty military with working service dogs, and three additional disabled veterans without dogs from the greater Los Angeles region.
For Patriot Paws, an appearance on the Saving America’s Mustangs float and national television exposure will help bring support for the growing foundation. For Sgt. Rankin, he’s looking forward to the exposure and support, but also notes with excitement that he’s never been in the Tournament of Roses Parade. It will be a new experience for one of America’s distinguished servicemen.
The two-hour Tournament of Roses Parade will be broadcast live nationally on ABC television.