BY RICHARD RHINEHART
Washington, D.C., May 6, 2011 – During World T.E.A.M. Sports’ Face of America ride from Washington to Gettysburg April 16-17, West Virginia veteran Bill Czyzewski faced the longest and most challenging hand cycle ride of his life.
Reaching Seamus Garrahy’s quiet farm at the historic battlefields of America’s Civil War, Czyzewski recognized the enormity of his accomplishment. Despite heavy rain and wind that shortened Saturday’s ride, Czyzewski and the nearly 500 other riders, including 93 wounded warriors, persevered and completed the journey the following day. For the Vietnam War vet injured in 1970, Saturday’s heavy rain and headwind brought back memories of his time in southeastern Asia, with its plentiful monsoons. “Guess what,” Czyzewski said, “The rain didn’t stop the war, just like I didn’t want the rain to stop the ride. I wanted to do as much as I could. All I can say is ‘I did it.’”
Named “Bicycle Bill” in a profile published by the Martinsburg Journal-News, Czyzewski was impressed by the scope of the ride. “Meeting the riders and seeing so many riders from all walks of life coming together for the common goal of helping one another,” left an impression on the 62-year-old hand cyclist. Noting that “if you needed something, there was somebody there to help you, on or off the ride,” Czyzewski said this was “something that is missing in real life.”
“Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would go down the streets of Washington D.C. on a hand cycle, riding with other wounded warriors and active duty people from different wars,” recalled Czyzewski. “Seeing the perseverance and determination in their eyes” was an inspiration.
As a Vietnam veteran, Czyzewski is emotional about the support from those he encountered in the ride and along the route. “The many people along the way waving flags and applauding made you feel really good inside – enough to bring a tear to your eye. When we got to Mr. Garrahy’s farm for the good cold beer and great steak, I heard him say that if anybody wanted to know what America was all about, they should have been in Gettysburg that afternoon.”
Pleased with his completion of his first 110-mile ride, Czyzewski remembers those who helped him reach his goal. “There are some people I would like to thank. The first is my buddy Stephen Miller for letting me know I could get a hand-cycle from the Martinsburg VA. Next is the Martinsburg Veterans Hospital, and Mr Tom Abell of the Prosthetic Department, for getting me the bike. It has given me more exercise in my life then I have done for the past 40 years. Next is Mr. Denny Price of Musselman High School in Inwood, WV for the use of his track to get me started. The next is meeting Mr. Bremer on the Sea to Shining Sea run last summer and his encouragement to me by hollering out, ‘Leave Bill alone – this is his hill.’ I will never forget that – it gave me more encouragement on this run. Last, but not least, all the men and woman who rode in support of all the wounded warriors and active and retired military, and the wounded warriors themselves. It was my honor to ride with you.”
Czyzewski is looking forward to future participation in World T.E.A.M. Sports’ events. “I can’t wait for the Face of America Texas run,” he reports, noting that November 13 is his birthday. “What an honor it will be for me to ride and spend time with all the people and veterans on Veterans Day.”
Ride with Bicycle Bill on Day 2 of Face of America: