By Richard Rhinehart
Troy, New York, July 19, 2016 – United States Marine Corps veteran Rachel Fredericks had never ridden her hand cycle more than 38 miles in a single day. During national non-profit World T.E.A.M. Sports’ April 23-24 Face of America bicycle and hand cycle ride from the Pentagon to historic Gettysburg, Fredericks rode 110 miles in two days through the encouraging support of other ride participants.
“I had been so depressed for months leading up to Face of America,” the 25-year-old aviation specialist recalled. “Conquering such a difficult ride brought me back to life.”
Wanting to serve her country, Fredericks enlisted in the Marines as soon as she graduated from high school in Troy, New York at age 17. Stationed at the Naval Air Station Meridian in Mississippi following Basic Training and job school, Fredericks served as a member of the Marine Aviation Training support squadron.
Though she intended to make military service her lifelong profession, Fredericks instead found herself back home in New York’s capital district along the Hudson River after a 2010 honorable discharge. During an obstacle course training exercise, she took a 20-foot fall and fractured both hips and two of her vertebrae, also tearing muscles and ligaments. Following several surgeries and rehabilitation, she lives today with degenerative spinal disease. Recently, she completed her studies at SUNY Plattsburgh and was awarded a bachelor’s degree.
“Before becoming disabled I loved to compete,” said Fredericks. “Thankfully, I now ride a hand cycle and am able to compete again.”
Non-profit Angel Bikes provided her a hand cycle in 2014 and Fredericks began cycling. Participating in a Soldier Ride with Wounded Warrior Project and the Hope for the Warriors’ Long Island Run For The Warriors, Fredericks decided to apply for a position in Face of America, the annual ride to Gettysburg that honors military veterans who have been injured or disabled during their service. Missing the initial registration period, Fredericks joined as a replacement rider in early March. “I had no idea it was 110 miles in two days! This made me very uneasy knowing I only had 30 days until the ride.”
Excited at the prospect of joining other injured military veterans from across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, Fredericks began training on local streets and highways in Troy. She recalled other participants and a bike marshal at Face of America helped her successfully complete her journey north from the Pentagon. “Hand cycling has changed my life and helped me find me again,” she said of her experience. “If anyone I meet has an interest in Face of America or any other adaptive sporting event with World T.E.A.M. Sports, I encourage them to go. It could be a life-changing experience, as it was for me.”
Participating in a rehabilitative sports camp in July from Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Fredericks will compete in the Marine Corps Marathon this October 30 in Washington D.C. She’ll be participating as a member of the Airborne Tri Team.
“Nothing will ever repay what World T.E.A.M. Sports has done for me and my overall health and wellness!” Fredericks said.
Presented by Capital One Bank, Face of America 2016 was supported through sponsorship from American Portfolios Financial Services, Boost Oxygen, Booz Allen Hamilton, Benson Botsford LLC, Brioni, Devens Recycling Center, Freshbikes, Penske Truck Rental, Punch’d Energy, Sila Solutions Group, SUBWAY of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, The Melting Pot of Wilmington DE, Three Wire Systems, Vedder Price, and Veteran Corps of America. Funds raised through Face of America pay for the costs of the event and supports participation of the disabled athletes. Ride proceeds also helps pay for other World T.E.A.M. Sports events, including this August’s Coastal Team Challenge along the Long Island coast.
Rachel Fredericks is featured in Kate Hoof’s 2016 Face of America video.