By Richard Rhinehart
Arlington, Virginia, December 12, 2013 – How do you manage your life once you’ve been dealt a bad hand? For Marine Corps veteran LeMar Best, his participation in the annual Face of America ride from national non-profit World T.E.A.M. Sports changed everything.
Through contacts he made during his April, 2013 ride from Washington to Gettysburg, Best will receive, at no cost, a new ICE Adventure recumbent bicycle, allowing him to regain physical fitness and encourage others to undertake outdoor activities.
Joining the Marine Corps after completing high school, the Fayetteville Pennsylvania resident had served for more than six years when a service-related injury knocked him out of Marine Corps combat status. Sustaining a traumatic brain injury, multiple body scars, a loss of smell and the loss of his right eye, Best relied on his mother while he lay unconscious for more than a month during his recovery. “My mother was the rock that held everything together for me,” Best recalled. “Her voice and determination is what kept me in the military. Without her, I don’t know where I’d be today.”
“I went through a lot of ups and downs for the remainder of my career, but with everything that happened, I know that I played the cards I was dealt sincerely, and with the utmost confidence,” said Best, who recently retired after 13 years with the Marine Corps. “Even though I was dealt a bad hand, I know I made the necessary plays that needed to be made.”
Deciding to participate in the 2013 Face of America ride, Best saw the 110-mile, two-day ride as an opportunity. “My health was stable. I saw no more surgeries in my near future. I felt that it was the right time for me to start being active again, so I can build myself up both physically and mentally to remain strong for the long run.”
At the host hotel for the ride in Arlington, Virginia, Best met ride marshal Sharon Gill. “We talked at the bike drop-off, where I learned this was his first ride. I also met his mother Lisa,” said Gill. “I understood that this was LeMar’s first real coming out since he was wounded, though he had been athletic all his life. After the kick-off dinner, I introduced him Colonel Gregory Gadson who, naturally, was very inspiring and motivating.”
Gill promised to watch for Best during his ride. “During two days of cycling, I checked in on him and always found him to be doing great – in fact, he was playfully trash-talking by the second day.”
“The ride went beyond meeting my expectations,” said Best. “I never knew how fun and challenging riding a recumbent bike would be. I love challenges, and I promise myself to excel each time I ride.”
Returning home after the ride, Best decided he wanted a recumbent of his own to continue cycling. Contacting the Veterans Administration, he began the slow process of acquiring a bike. He also contacted Gill, who supported Best’s bid to the VA. “I was, and have been, totally impressed by LeMar’s perseverance, his attitude and his new passion for cycling,” said Gill.
At a September cycling event in Pennsylvania, Gill rode with Geoffrey Moulton, a Face of America ride marshal and Army veteran. She told him of Best’s desire to acquire a recumbent. “She felt that I could assist because of my connections with the VA Medical Center in Philadelphia,” said Moulton. “I contacted LeMar and listened to his story. There was an adaptive cycling clinic in October hosted by the Philly VA Medical Center and the Paralyzed Veterans Racing group in southern New Jersey. I got LeMar an invite to the event so he could meet people and try a number of different bikes.”
Another contact from the Face of America ride also played a role in helping Best. “Kristine White told me about Hal Honeyman and Project Mobility,” recalled Moulton. “I liked the purpose of Project Mobility and purchased tickets for the raffle on the ICE Adventure recumbent.”
A Saint Charles, Illinois non-profit, Project Mobility: Cycles for Life assists children and disabled veterans in acquiring bicycles for therapy and recreation. Founded in 2002 by Honeyman, a 30-year bicycling industry veteran, the organization works closely with veterans groups at cycling events nationally. A raffle this October raised funds for the non-profit. The raffle prize was a $3,000 ICE Adventure recumbent, donated to the organization by the British cycling manufacturer, Inspired Cycle Engineering.
To Moulton’s surprise, he was contacted November 20 by Project Mobility as the raffle winner. “I don’t know who was more excited upon hearing the news that I had won the bike, me or the person I am giving it to so that it can continue to be a change in his life,” said Moulton.
“When the bike arrives, my friend John Siemiarowski, who works with Pennsylvania Center for Adapted Sports, and I will drive out to Fayetteville to present the bike and assure his fitting,” explained Moulton. “Afterward, we will be joined by Sharon Gill and all go for his first ride on the new trike.” Members of Moulton’s Gettysburg Face of America team, Custer’s Cavalry, will also participate in the December 15 training ride.
“This is a first for us,” said Honeyman of Project Mobility’s raffle award. “Pretty amazing – a really great story.”
“I am extremely happy to be able to help LeMar achieve a new level of freedom. Being able to help another person and make a positive impact on their life is one of my missions in life,” said Moulton.
Presented by Capital One Bank, registration for the 2014 Face of America ride is currently open. The annual event will be held April 25-27 and will include nearly 600 persons, of which more than 100 will be disabled veterans riding hand cycles, recumbents and regular bicycles. Among those veterans will be Best, riding his new recumbent.