Military Initiative

Events to Challenge the Mind as well as the Body

Bill Czyzewski at the conclusion of the 2012 Sea to Shining Sea ride.

World T.E.A.M. Sports has a long history of creating inclusive events for adaptive military veterans, like Bill Czyzewski, who completed the cross-country Sea to Shining Sea ride in July 2012. Photograph by Van Brinson.

World T.E.A.M. Sports‘ inspiring Military Initiative program brings together adaptive military veterans and able-bodied climbers, skiers, hikers, mountaineers, cyclists and water sports enthusiasts on outdoor adventures worldwide. These events and expeditions include technical climbs of high mountain peaks, snow sports such as skiing and snowboarding, cycling events and water sports.

This ongoing program is a commitment to help adaptive military veterans break through perceived constraints and overcome emotional, physical and technical boundaries, and to realize their endeavors in life are possible. Past participants have included veterans from wars and conflicts from Korea through Vietnam, Bosnia, the Gulf War and Afghanistan and Iraq.

2009 Coastal Team Challenge Team

The 2009 Coastal Team Challenge team stands on Jericho Beach. The team included both American and Canadian adaptive military veterans. Photograph courtesy Lon Dolber.

The Military Initiative program began with the January 1998 Vietnam Challenge, a bicycle and hand cycle ride from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. This event brought together a diverse team of disabled former Vietnam War combatants from Vietnam and the United States. Documented by Kartemquin Films in their award-winning 1998 documentary, “Vietnam, Long Time Coming,” the Challenge was an important step in healing the invisible wounds of war.

World T.E.A.M. Sports‘ popular Face of America bicycle and hand cycle ride to the historic Civil War battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is the annual legacy of the Vietnam Challenge. Each April, more than 600 cyclists participate on two routes in a two-day journey that includes more than 150 adaptive military veterans from all service branches. Athletes from across North America, Puerto Rico and Europe ride together in the Face of America.

In the summers of 2010 and 2012, the Sea to Shining Sea bicycle and hand cycle ride from the Pacific to Atlantic coast provided an exceptional challenge for the participating adaptive veterans. With disabilities ranging from blindness to amputation to paralysis to Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injuries, these veterans rode across America in two months. The 2010 journey was documented by filmmaker Austin Smithard in his feature film “Two Shining Seas.”

Vietnam Challenge team mates.

American and Vietnam veterans grew closer during the 16 day ride from Hanoi. World T.E.A.M. Sports archive photograph.

In mid-June 2014, the CanAm Veterans’ Challenge brought together veterans from the United States, Canada and Denmark for a two-week ride from the capital of Canada, Ottawa, to the capital of the United States, Washington D.C. The ride through Ontario, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia not only demonstrated to the public the determination and perseverance of athletes with disabilities, but also created a new community for the participating riders.

In August 2009, a team of Canadian and American veterans joined together for the Coastal Team Challenge. Held along the Pacific coast in Washington and British Columbia, the sea kayak expedition successfully navigated the sometimes rough coastal waters and helped bring together adaptive military veterans from both nations.

Robin Williams and veteran Eric Frazier.

Actor Robin Williams admires injured veteran Eric Frazier’s hand cycle during the 2010 Sea to Shining Sea ride from World T.E.A.M. Sports. Tony Avelar/AP Images for State Farm/World T.E.A.M. Sports.

With a strong history in creating alpine expeditions and climbs of high mountains worldwide, World T.E.A.M. Sports‘ Soldiers to the Summit program organized and directed two events.

In mid-October 2010, participants of World T.E.A.M. SportsSoldiers to the Summit Nepal expedition successfully ascended Lobuche East, the ice-and-snow covered 20,075-foot peak near Mount Everest in Nepal. This expedition was documented in two commercial documentary films, Recon: Conquering the Climb by The Pentagon Channel (March, 2011), and High Ground, by Stone Circle Pictures and Serac Adventure Films (February, 2012).

Partnering with Utah’s Snowbird Resort, American Airlines and Wasatch Adaptive Sports, World T.E.A.M. Sports introduced 15 disabled veterans to winter sports at the Soldiers to the Summit at Snowbird. The February 27-March 1, 2012 event at Snowbird Resort, in the high Wasatch Mountains southeast of Salt Lake City, provided adaptive veterans the opportunity to team with skilled instructors to learn and experience winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling.

Marine Corps veteran David Sanatamore.

Marine Corps veteran David Santamore from Vermont participated in his first Adventure Team Challenge from World T.E.A.M. Sports in September 2013. Photograph by Brian Gliba.

Adaptive military veterans from across North America also compete in the annual Adventure Team Challenge in Colorado. The Challenge, alternately held in the high mountains near Eagle and in the desert near the Utah border west of Grand Junction, sees teams of five persons join together to complete stages that include off-road bicycling, river rafting, and technical rock activities on rope. For each team, two members must be adaptive, one being a wheelchair user. World T.E.A.M. Sports’ Adventure Team Challenge North Carolina in November 2015 also included military veteran teams.

World T.E.A.M. Sports sponsors adaptive military veterans at several outdoor sporting events. Past events include the 2015 IRONMAN Maryland in Cambridge, Maryland and the 2016 and 2017 Marine Corps Marathon in Arlington, Virginia.

Future challenging and diverse sporting events, expeditions and camps for adaptive military veterans are planned by World T.E.A.M. Sports.

Chris Levi and other riders arrive in Gettysburg.

Veteran Chris Levi of New York state (on hand cycle) arrives at the Face of America finish on April 26, 2015. Photograph by Candi Clark.

Riders depart Binghamton, New York.

CanAm Veterans’ Challenge team members depart Binghamton in southern New York, June 27, 2014. Photograph by Van Brinson.