By Richard Rhinehart
Amarillo, Texas, April 17, 2012: For 20 wounded warriors from America’s military, spending a weekend riding mountain bikes in the second annual Warrior 100K will offer an opportunity to meet other veterans as well as ride with their former commander-in-chief. In the colorful desert canyons of Palo Duro Canyon near Amarillo, participants will be challenged by the dry springtime heat, the rough terrain and by the competitive riding skills of President George W. Bush.
A program from The Bush Center’s Military Service Initiative, the Warrior 100K brings together disabled veterans from four leading military support programs for an extended weekend of riding and comradery with President Bush, an avid mountain biker who frequently rode at his Texas ranch and at Camp David during his presidency.
World T.E.A.M. Sports, the Holbrook, New York non-profit that creates inclusive sporting events for disabled and able-bodied participants, is a supporting organization of the Warrior 100K. Along with the Challenged Athletes Foundation, Ride 2 Recovery and the Wounded Warrior Project, World T.E.A.M. Sports is providing disabled veterans for the ride. Six veterans from four states will be riding with the World T.E.A.M. Sportsteam, an increase from the two veterans who participated in the inaugural 2011 ride.
GySgt John Szczepanowski, who serves with the San Diego-based USMC DISC Southern California Wounded Warrior Regiment, is World T.E.A.M. Sports’ team captain at the Warrior 100K. An avid triathlete who enjoys outdoor activities and sports, GySgt Szczepanowski began his career with the Marines in 1989. Serving at various bases worldwide, GySgt Szczepanowski spent two years in western Al Anbar Province in Iraq ending in 2010. During an assignment at Walter Reed National Naval Medical Center in Washington, he created and managed Team Semper Fi, a bicycling program which brings together wounded service members and care givers.
Daniel Carter from Winchester, California was deployed to Helmand Province in Afghanistan in November 2009 as a member of the Marines Corps. On February 10, 2010, Carter was injured when 200 pounds of explosives caused a mine-roller to land on top of him, rendering him unconscious. Currently undergoing treatment related to his injuries, Carter is attending junior college.
Chris Goehner from Ellensburg, Washington is a Navy veteran. Joining the service after graduating from high school in 2003, Goehner saw two deployments to Iraq. During both deployments, Goehner provided emergency medical care to the injured – in seven months, he provided care to over 1,200 persons. Owing to the severity of the trauma care he provided, Goehner developed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and returned to the United States. Providing assistance to other veterans, Goehner will soon graduate from college with two bachelor’s degrees that will allow him to continue his desire to help others, and for Americans to “see veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder in a positive light and as a productive member of society.”
Adam Jahnke grew up in Plymouth, Wisconsin where he spent time hunting and fishing. At age 13, his family moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, his current home. Joining the Marines in 2005, he was deployed to Iraq and was “blown up a few times,” he recalls, resulting in traumatic brain injuries. “At the time,” he said, “I didn’t understand my injuries and like most Marines, wrote them off. It took a lot of pain medicine to remain operational.” The injuries took their toll, however, and once he returned to the United States, he discovered he was in trouble, both mentally and physically. Jahnke reports he “found myself lost and very alone. I didn’t want to be around anyone but the guys I served with. Drink was the only way I could fall asleep at night, even though I knew I would not be able to stay asleep.” Seeking treatment, Jahnke began receiving medication which provided more challenges. Eventually, he joined a cycling program, which has allowed him to travel across the country riding and racing. This helped him greatly, providing him with exercise and a purpose for life.
David Wright, a Marine Corps veteran from Omaha, Nebraska who served through November 2004, found himself deployed to both Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom and in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, fighting all the way to Baghdad. He served a second deployment in June 2004, where he participated in the battle for Fallujah. “On this tour,” David reports, “I sustained three traumatic brain injuries in three separate small arms exchanges, including one IED that knocked me unconscious.” Leaving the Marines, he “suffered through a serious bout of PTSD, and learned to deal with the change in behavior because of TBI as well.” Graduating in college in May 2009, he took a government clerical job, which he later left owing to issues from his time in the military. “I had to hit a deep low before I actually received help that I had always needed,” Wright said. He started bicycling as a hobby, finding the exercise helped with his depression and anxiety.
Sgt Matthew Zbiec was the first of his family to join the military. Ten days after high school graduation, he began boot camp with the Marines in San Diego. The Chicago native saw two deployments to Iraq. During the second, on October 10, 2005, Sgt Zbiec was hit by a hand-detonated Improvised Explosive Device. “I had just left my vehicle and was on foot when the IED was detonated eight feet away,” he reports. “To date, I have had 40+ surgeries directly related to the events.” Medically retired from the Marines in 2007, he married in November 2008 and is currently raising his family and working on his education from his home in La Mesa, California. “Both my wife and I aspire to one day be in a position to assist our combat wounded servicemen and women,” Sgt Zbiec said.
The Warrior 100K begins on April 26 and continues through April 28. The event is by invitation only and is not open to the public.