By Richard Rhinehart
Waco, Texas, May 7, 2015 – Injured veterans from past World T.E.A.M. Sports sporting events actively participated in the April 30-May 2 Warrior 100K ride with President George W. Bush at his Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford, Texas.
Joining the President in the 100 kilometer ride on challenging mountain bike trails were Marine Corps Lance Corporal Adam McCann of Oberlin, Ohio, Army Combat Medic José E. Santiago of Centennial, Colorado and Army Sergeant First Class Manuel A. Colón of Orlando, Florida.
McCann rode in his first Warrior 100K. Injured through April 2005 mortar explosions while in service in Iraq, McCann returned to his Cleveland area hometown, where he enrolled in college for a degree in sports management. Riding the 110-mile Face of America from World T.E.A.M. Sports in 2013, he continually seeks new athletic challenges, including Colorado’s Leadville Trail 100 MTB, which he completed in 2014.
Of the trails at the Prairie Chapel Ranch, McCann reports “the riding was awesome.” He noted that the pace was fast and “the President is an excellent rider.”
Receiving a new full suspension Trek 27.5 mountain bike through his participation, McCann found dinner at the President’s ranch house to be memorable. “It was just us warriors, our guests, and a couple of the President’s guests,” he recalled.
Santiago participated in his second Warrior 100K ride, this time as an alumnus. Medically discharged from the Army in June 2006, he was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress. A participant in three Face of America rides and the 2014 CanAm Veterans’ Challenge from World T.E.A.M. Sports, Santiago is participating this June in Colorado’s Ride the Rockies, a 465 mile ride with more than 40,000 feet elevation gain.
“Even though it was the second time [at the Warrior 100K], it’s always surreal to be with President George W. Bush,” said Santiago. “It’s an amazing experience; it’s like you’re dreaming.”
For injured veterans interested in riding future Warrior 100K rides, Santiago advised to have patience and to train. “It’s not an easy ride – you cannot expect to get out there and never been on a mountain bike and be able to keep up,” Santiago said. “It’s a pretty fast pace and there’s some technical areas, especially on the snake trail. I’m in better shape now and have more experience on mountain bike.”
Army Sergeant First Class Manuel A. Colón had not planned on riding this year’s Warrior 100K, having participated twice before. “I wanted to give another veteran an opportunity to attend so I didn’t apply,” he said. “In the meantime, I was preparing myself to ride Face of America and received an email inviting the alumni to participate in the ride with new alumni inductees. I did not waste any time and said I would attend.”
Once he arrived at the ranch, Colón was ready for the fast pace. “This is the third year I rode with the President, and every year he gets faster. He knows his land like the back of his hand, but I have told him many times, ‘I would like to be riding like you, Sir, when I get to be your age.’”
Colón recommends that “anyone who would like to partake in the ride should use all the other rides like World T.E.A.M. Sports as training.” He also notes that candidates should “not give up on the application process” as there are limited positions each year.
In past Warrior 100K rides, Colón reports he came simply to participate. But, in riding this year’s event, he understood why it is important to injured veterans. “I realize the impact of the ride is not just to ride, but to build leaders in our communities by empowerment.”
Directed by the Military Service Initiative of the George W. Bush Institute, the Warrior 100K provides about 20 servicemen and women each year with an opportunity to undertake the challenge of a series of fast-paced daily mountain bike rides with the President. The Institute works with numerous national non-profit organizations in identifying qualifying veteran candidates for the team, including World T.E.A.M. Sports.
In addition to the Warrior 100K, the Institute also hosts the Warrior Open golf tournament and an annual summit at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas that brings together business, philanthropic, military, governmental and non-profit organizations for discussions on how to better serve military veterans and their families.