By Richard Rhinehart
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, April 30, 2012 – It was a bittersweet conclusion to World T.E.A.M. Sports’ annual Face of America ride April 29 in Gettysburg, as the 500 participants of the 110-mile ride from the Pentagon, their families, friends and supporters, and local Gettysburg residents, gathered to remember the legacy of the ride’s host, Cpl. Jim “Seamus” Garrahy.
Although the participants, including more than 60 wounded warriors, were pleased and satisfied they successfully completed the two day ride, there was also the sadness of realizing that one of World T.E.A.M. Sports most dedicated supporters was not on hand to join in the celebration. This last January, Garrahy ran out of time on his battle against cancer, meaning this year’s ride conclusion was the first he was not present to great the riders.
In an emotional presentation on the sunny lawn in front of the corporal’s house, General Bob Magnus presented on behalf of World T.E.A.M. Sports to Linda Garrahy a special Marine Corps flag with the likeness of her late husband on the reverse side. Veteran Lew Meyer rode the last stage of the ride with the special flag on the rear of his tandem bicycle. “He is with us here, right now,” Magnus said in honor of Garrahy. “We love you, we love this setting,” he said, “It is just so historic and meaningful to the riders.”
“This is not the face of America here,” Magnus explained to the audience, “Every ride we do, is faces of America. It is the faces of America that are out there on the streets that you saw yesterday and today; cold weather, warm weather, rainy weather, hot weather, World War II veterans – believe it or not, Korean War, Vietnam War, local fire departments, EMTs and your faces. You are all looking at each other as a mirror of America. It’s a beautiful country, a wonderful country, what a heck of a way to celebrate the country by giving back and enjoying it as you do it.”
World T.E.A.M. Sports also honored Gettysburg’s Stan Clark for his tireless assistance in making the necessary arrangements for the ride’s conclusion in the historic community. “We salute you,” said Clark to the audience.
The second day of the annual ride began in Frederick, as participants gathered in the early morning fog that blanketed the northern Maryland city. Following a safety briefing, the riders were off onto the nearly empty city streets, heading north through downtown Frederick toward their first rest stop at the historic Loy’s Station Park with its covered bridge.
As the riders progressed north, the fog burned away, allowing the nearly 500 participants to warm themselves in the spring sunshine. Though some riders struggled on steep hills, and two participants took unexpected tumbles, the group arrived at Barlow Fire Company #22 on Taneytown Road south of Gettysburg on schedule at noon.
Here, the riders were split into six groups, riding north into the Gettysburg National Military Park. Through these sacred battlefields, in which Americans sustained 51,000 casualties in the battle that inspired President Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address,” the riders rode solemnly, recognizing the region’s tragic history. About a mile and a half from the Garrahy farm, the riders were staged at Lt Col Michael Posner’s farm for the final ride down Black Horse Tavern Road.
Large howitzer guns crossed the road, forming a gateway, with an audience estimated at several hundred persons lining the path the riders would take. As people milled about waiting for the riders, the atmosphere was of joyful anticipation, with young children waiting the arrival of fathers, soldiers ready to solute their colleagues, and friends preparing to shout their approval.
Soon, the steady stream of riders snaked down the narrow road, beneath the howitzers. As expected, they were greeted with cheers, shouts and applause. “Thank you, thank you,” was all the riders could say, taken by the emotion and pride of their accomplishment.
On the hill to the north stood the Garrahy house, and there are those who believe the corporal himself was standing watch. He fully supported America’s many veterans – particularly wounded warriors – during his life, so it would not be surprising that his support would continue following his passing.
As riders and their families, friends and supporters enjoyed cold beer, non-alcoholic beverages and a hot lunch of grilled steaks, baked beans and bread, the Face of America reminded all that regardless of disagreements Americans may have as to politics, the nation can and will come together to support their own. For World T.E.A.M. Sports, supporting and honoring disabled veterans is a primary goal of the non-profit organization, a goal that will be continued this summer with the Sea to Shining Sea ride from San Francisco to Virginia Beach.
Proceeds from the Face of America fundraising were applied to the event, covering all costs for the participating wounded warriors and for creating a safe and enjoyable ride for all participants. Any additional funds remaining will be applied to upcoming World T.E.A.M. Sports events.