Face of America Ride with Injured Veterans Changed Life of Young Student

By Richard Rhinehart

Jackson, Mississippi, July 12, 2016 – Seattle native Rachael Rosen was 17 years old when she rode World T.E.A.M. Sports’ April 2010 Face of America bicycle and hand cycle ride to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Her experiences with participating injured military veterans, and that summer as a staff member of the organization’s two-month, cross-country Sea to Shining Sea bicycle ride from California to Virginia, led her to the start of a career in prosthetics and orthotics.

Rachael Rosen.

Rachael Rosen has participated in two Face of America rides and served as a staff member for the 2012 Sea to Shining Sea ride. Photograph courtesy Rachael Rosen.

Graduating this June with a Master’s Degree from the University of Washington School of Medicine, Rosen recently moved to Jackson, Mississippi for a one year residency in prosthetics and orthotics at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Though she is far from her beloved Washington, Rosen will be busy, working closely with injured and disabled athletes.

“I really don’t like the term ‘disabled’ athletes,” said Rosen. “If anything, I think ‘adaptive’ is a term which is much more applicable to these athletes.”

Crossing America with a team of adaptive military veterans from all service branches, Rosen had the opportunity to learn how athletes with injuries ranging from loss of limb to paralysis to Post-Traumatic Stress live and thrive in their lives.

“They approach athletics in a slightly different way. Sometimes, that is through adaptive equipment and sometimes that is through re-learning alternative techniques to participate in sports.” Rosen is impressed by the dedication shown by adaptive athletes. “Their perseverance is unmatched by anything which able-bodied athletes may be able to comprehend. They’re bound to fall all too many times, start off as uncoordinated, and be in for a frustrating road becoming involved in athletics once again. But that is what makes their victories so much more powerful, meaningful, and in some cases, therapeutic than their able-bodied counterparts.”

Rachael Rosen at the 2010 Face of America.

Rachael Rosen (on the left in blue) at her first Face of America ride in 2010. Her uncle Chris Rosen is in the black jacket helping push a rider up a hill. Photograph courtesy Rachael Rosen.

Rosen was a high school volleyball player when Chris Rosen, her U.S. Marine Corps uncle, encouraged her to join him in Face of America. Perhaps the life-changing moment for her on the ride was near the start of the first day, at the first rest stop north of Washington, D.C.

“I was so frustrated with the bike I was riding, and the fact that the brakes were squeaking because of the dry rot and the cassette was so worn, I couldn’t properly shift gears. As I was complaining to my uncle, I looked to my left and saw a rider on his hand cycle looking up at me,” recalled Rosen. “That I think was truly a turning point for me at such a young age when I realized that my hardships were truly nothing to dwell on. They were all manageable in the grand scheme of things. I ate my piece of humble pie and never really looked back.”

Successfully completing the two-day ride to historic Gettysburg, Rosen again rode Face of America in 2012. She also eagerly accepted an offer to work as an intern with World T.E.A.M. Sports during Sea to Shining Sea. Traveling in a support van across northern Nevada with another staff member, Rosen saw a chance to provide assistance to a veteran. “We saw one of our riders, Jon ‘Snoddy’ Snodgrass, walking up a large hill. I immediately got out of the van and walked with Jon until he was able to get his breath back, as the high altitude had been taking its toll on all of us. Once Jon got on his bike, I told him to set the pace and I would run with him until he was off safely. It was a great experience for the both of us.”

Rachael Rosen providing assistance to a veteran.

Rachael Rosen provides Jonathon Snodgrass some moral support by running with him up a hill at the 2012 Sea to Shining Sea. Photograph by Rob Larose.

Sea to Shining Sea ride director Mike Claver recalled Rosen as having a “keen awareness of where she was headed in life. Working around her, I could sense her inquisitive nature about those with disabilities and how she would use her experience from this ride to catapult her into her vocation. When she was looking at prosthetic limbs, I could see her mechanical and analytical mind trying to figure out how she could make these better for each person.”

Keeping in contact with riders and fellow staff members from Sea to Shining Sea through social media, Rosen has occasionally met with members of her extended event family. “I’m hoping that with my move from the pretty isolated Pacific Northwest, I’ll be running into more Sea to Shining Sea alumni.”

Brian Petras and Rachael Rosen.

Veteran Brian Petras and Rachael Rosen at the summit of Colorado’s Loveland Pass during the 2012 Sea to Shining Sea. The pass crosses the Continental Divide at 11,990 feet. Photograph courtesy Rachael Rosen.

With Sea to Shining Sea now four years in her past, Rosen is looking to her future. She’s open to returning to Face of America if scheduling allows. “I’d really like to be on the support side as a prosthetic and orthotic clinician to ensure all the riders’ devices are in proper working order and to problem solve through any issues which may arise.”

“The events which I have participated in with World T.E.A.M. Sports solidified my want to become a member of the rehabilitation team for injured veterans returning home,” said Rosen. “The field of prosthetics and orthotics happened to be a perfect fit for me. I am able to maximize on my creativity, focus on patient-care, and problem solve in ways that are extremely unique to every situation.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rachel Rosen was profiled by World T.E.A.M. Sports following the Sea to Shining Sea ride conclusion. Read the November 5, 2012 interview with Rosen about her role in the ride and her upcoming goals.

Team The Other Washington at the conclusion of Face of America 2012.

Rachael Rosen (with handband and kneeling) with Team The Other Washington at the conclusion of Face of America 2012 in Gettysburg. The team also included four naval academy cadets, along with Army veteran Bruce Dunlap and Air Force veteran Brian Petras (in green jacket). Photograph courtesy Rachael Rosen.

Sea to Shining Sea riders 2012

From left to right, Andy Jansen, Alex Illiescu, Michael Manning, Tom Riley, Rachael Rosen, and Robert Clayton posing for a commemorative picture at the 100 mile mark of their century ride during the 2012 Sea to Shining Sea. Photograph by Michael Simpson.