By Richard Rhinehart
Arlington, Virginia, February 23, 2016 – Navy veteran and comedian PJ Walsh competed last September in national non-profit World T.E.A.M. Sports’ Adventure Team Challenge, an inspirational team event in Colorado’s remote Gore Range with disabled and able-bodied athletes. This April 22-24, Walsh will ride 110 miles over two days in the organization’s annual Face of America bicycle and hand cycle ride honoring injured military veterans. He’ll also provide the keynote talk at the event’s kick-off banquet in Arlington.
“I’ve never ridden a long ride before, so I want to push myself to be in the best shape I can be in,” said Walsh. A frequent runner who works out at his local gym most days, Walsh notes he is increasing his cycling to be prepared for his long days of riding.
A contender at last summer’s American Ninja Warrior competition on NBC Television, Walsh exited early from the military competition after being hit by a rolling log. Even with his early departure, Wash had the opportunity to talk on national television about veterans and their sacrifices, a cause that remains close to his heart for the last decade.
“One day in August of 2007, I found myself sitting in a C-130 plane flying over Afghanistan transporting remains. It was five hours of silence I will feel for the rest of my life,” recalled Walsh. “I have no idea who was under those American Flag draped coffins. But I know exactly what I owe them. The type of individual that goes into that room and makes that oath. I owe them everything. Everything I have accomplished, learned and fought through.”
“World T.E.A.M. Sports is very excited to have PJ Walsh join us at our Face of America gala dinner,” said Van Brinson, CEO and President. “Having served in the US Navy, PJ is especially attuned the ‘unique’ brand of humor that resonates with veterans. He will be natural fit for our event.”
A frequent entertainer for military troops overseas, Walsh is one of a small number of comedians who take time to entertain active duty military members, much like entertainer Bob Hope did in his decades of overseas tours a generation ago.
“Everyone knew who Bob Hope was,” Walsh said. “I’m more, PJ who? But that’s what I really liked about Bob Hope. I’ve seen and know a lot of very successful entertainers that don’t take the time to visit our men and women overseas. It really bothered me for a long time … really bothered me. I was in the military, feel fortunate, and obligated in some fashion to continue to do my small part.”
Since 2001, Walsh has traveled with about 45 different comedians on overseas tours, including 12 who were veterans. “The comedians who go overseas to entertain the troops will always hold a special place in my heart.”
With more than 600 participants anticipated in this year’s Face of America ride, including 160 injured military veterans from all service branches, the 44-year-old Walsh is planning to entertain at his keynote talk, but also offer an understanding of the challenges veterans face today.
“I do think there should be genuine feelings shared,” admitted Walsh. “I feel blessed to be a part of this community. I care about these people because they are my people. My experiences with them, from when I was 18 years old through today, have framed the man I am today.”
Walsh’s experience in the Adventure Team Challenge helped him become more appreciative of veterans and their unique skills that can benefit the nation.
“All the competitors, volunteers and my teammates were outstanding and inspiring. I really felt a personal shift within myself throughout the weekend,” said Walsh. “Being on a team and not wanting to let any one of them down was something I had missed. It also makes you look at the word ‘disabled’ differently because it’s not one I would use for anyone on that weekend with me.”
In addition to riding in Face of America, Walsh also plans on returning to the Adventure Team Challenge in western Colorado near Grand Junction this September. “My next training goal is to be in even better shape for that!”
Presented by Capital One Bank, Face of America is supported through sponsorship from American Portfolios Financial Services, Booz Allen Hamilton, Benson Botsford LLC, Brioni, Devens Recycling Center, Freshbikes, Penske Truck Rental, Sila Solutions Group, SUBWAY of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Three Wire Systems, Vedder Price, and Veteran Corps of America. Additional sponsorship support is forthcoming.
Listen to PJ Walsh and Van Brinson talk about Face of America and the Adventure Team Challenge on the February 5, 2016 Kim Power Stilson Show on SiriusXM’s BYUradio.