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. 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.‘s inspiring Military Initiative brings together adaptive military veterans and able-bodied climbers, skiers, hikers, mountaineers, cyclists and water sports enthusiasts. These events and expeditions worldwide include technical climbs of high mountain peaks, snow sports such as skiing and snowboarding, cycling and water sports.

This ongoing program is a commitment to help adaptive military veterans break through perceived constraints. Participants overcome emotional, physical and technical boundaries, and realize their endeavors in life are possible. Participants include 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 cycling challenge from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. This ride brought together a diverse team of disabled former Vietnam War combatants from Vietnam and the United States. Kartemquin Films documented the Challenge 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.‘s popular Face of America Gettysburg cycling challenge ends in the historic Civil War battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It is the legacy of the Vietnam Challenge. Each April, 600 cyclists complete a two-day journey from Arlington, Virginia. The ride includes more than 100 adaptive military veterans from all service branches and from across North America, Puerto Rico and Europe.

Face of America Liberty is Face of America Gettysburg’s companion cycling challenge. The one-day ride each October to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York honors adaptive veterans.

Select veterans rode the Sea to Shining Sea cycling challenge from the Pacific to Atlantic coast in 2010 and 2012. It provided an exceptional challenge for the adaptive and able-bodied athletes. 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. 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 Ottawa, to 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 supportive community for the participating riders.

In early August 2009, Canadian and American military 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. It 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. Tony Avelar/AP Images for State Farm/World T.E.A.M.

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

In mid-October 2010, participants of the Soldiers to the Summit Nepal expedition successfully ascended Lobuche East. This ice-and-snow covered 20,075-foot peak near Mount Everest required technical climbing. Two 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) documented the expedition.

Partnering with Utah’s Snowbird Resort, American Airlines and Wasatch Adaptive Sports, World T.E.A.M. 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 provided adaptive veterans the opportunity to learn from skilled instructors. Athletes experienced 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. in September 2013. Photograph by Brian Gliba.

Adaptive military veterans also regularly compete in the annual Adventure Team Challenge in Colorado. The Challenge is alternately hosted in the high mountains near Eagle and in the desert near the Utah border. Teams of five athletes join together to complete stages in the two-day event. Challenges 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.’s similar Adventure Team Challenge North Carolina in November 2015 also included military veterans.

World T.E.A.M. 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.

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.