By Richard Rhinehart
Endwell, New York, March 28, 2017 – Navy and Army National Guard veteran Nicole Lee is riding in her first Face of America with national non-profit World T.E.A.M. Sports this April 28-30. The southern New York state veteran is riding with Team Rescue 22 from Arlington to Gettysburg with other adaptive military veterans from across North America.
Originally from Oak Harbor, Ohio, Lee severely injured her knee while participating in a convoy during active service in Afghanistan. As the only woman in the security group, however, she declined evacuation to Germany, preferring instead to allow team medics to keep her in action and working with her team. Following knee surgery back in the United States, running during a live fire exercise at Fort McCoy Total Force Training Center in Wisconsin re-injured her knee. She required total knee reconstruction and was transferred out of active-duty service and into a Warrior Transition Unit. Here, she spent three years before being medically retiring in 2013.
As an athlete who enjoyed running for recreation, physical fitness and stress release, Lee found herself having to explore new sports since running is no longer an option. “My knee regularly dislocates and running makes this happen more than anything else,” Lee said. “Doc says I have the knee of an 85 year old and running is only going to take away other things I like to do such as hike and ski.”
Turning to bicycling, Lee discovered she loved the sport. “Biking has helped me psychologically and mentally more than anything else I have tried over the years,” said the mother of two. “If I ever start to get into my own head, I ride.”
Following her most recent knee surgical procedure in October 2016, Lee reports she has been steadily increasing her cycling miles each week, riding her hybrid bicycle and her indoor trainer during New York’s snowy winter months. “I usually ride 22 miles most days in honor of the 22 veterans a day who commit suicide then add some longer days in there to meet my weekly 100 mile goal.”
Upon return home to her husband and family, Lee continued her education, earning a Master’s degree in Applied Clinical Nutrition in 2015. This degree included the study of herbal medicine, allowing her to start her own business and nutritional practice. She currently assists others to learn how to “manage chronic pain, systemic medical conditions, and other problems such as Post-Traumatic Stress, anxiety and depression.”
Noting that she loves being around other veterans, Lee said she is looking forward to her two days of riding the 110 miles to Gettysburg with Face of America. “It gives me that sense of camaraderie and family that I’ve missed since being out. I love working together with my brothers and sisters towards a common goal and supporting each other in reaching it.”
For those veterans and persons with injuries or disabilities, Lee has some advice. “Don’t ever say ‘I can’t’. While we may not be able to do all the things we used to in the same ways that we used to, we can still do so many things that we want to, and that’s where we need to focus.” From her own experiences in trying to do activities she could prior to her knee injury, Lee reports that only “frustration and even anger” is the result. “Some things we have to let go, and while that can be so frustrating, it also makes you look elsewhere to places you never thought of to find what it is you need. You learn new activities or new ways to do old activities, meet new people, reach new goals, and find new strength inside of you.”
“I know life isn’t going to be all puppies and unicorns and I fully accept that I will have bumps along the road,” Lee said. “When I get back on that bike, it puts things into perspective, gets my mind right, and helps me sort through whatever it is I need to.”
World T.E.A.M. Sports’ 2017 Face of America is presented by Capital One Bank and supported through sponsorship and partnerships from several leading companies including American Portfolios Financial Services, Benson Botsford LLC, Booz Allen Hamilton, Brioni, CYCLEBAR Columbia Pike, Dell EMC, Devens Recycling, Dunkin’ Donuts, FreshBikes, ForeScout, KT Tape, Penske Truck Rental, Pershing, Rescue 22, Sila, Strive, SUBWAY of the Walter Reed National Military Center, Three Wire Systems, Tom’s Creek United Methodist Church, TORRE Consulting Services, Vedder Price and Veteran Corps of America.