FORT HOOD, TX — Injured veterans and first responders got on their bikes Thursday and peddled their way through Fort Hood as part of an annual benefit ride.
Project Hero is a national nonprofit that combines a love of cycling with the open road to recovery. Each year, riders bike 300 miles from Austin to Arlington, and make a stop at Fort Hood.
”We’re doing it to help our veterans and first responders who are wounded, suffering from PTSD. We use cycling and community building for healing,” said Peter Bylsma, director of marketing communications for Project Hero.
The group consists of first responders and veterans from all branches of the military. Many of the cyclists say joining Project Hero was the best decision they've ever made.
”I was stuck in a wheelchair, electric wheelchair, couldn’t do anything, I was overweight, way too many meds, and by riding, I got myself off the morphine and all the other opioids and lost 70 pounds. I got circulation back in my legs,” said Patrick Kelly, a Marine Corps veteran.
Lee Kushaus is an amputee and served 13 years in the Air Force. She's ridden with Project Hero before, but this trek is different.
”So, I have been on the Texas challenge before, but I did it on a hand bike because I didn’t have a leg after my amputation. This is the first time I'm actually riding an upright bike," Kushaus said.
Last year's Texas Challenge was canceled due to COVID-19, so cyclists and soldiers were ecstatic to meet up this year.
”It’s really exciting for all of us. It's a big treat to come here today, and everyone is really excited to be back together, here in Texas,” said Bylsma.
The riders have a message for their brothers and sisters still serving in uniform.
”Yeah, never give up, just keep going. Support each other because as long as you're never leaving a brother behind, you’ll stay a unit, you’ll stay together, and you’ll achieve anything that you want," said Kelly.
Project Hero left Fort Hood with a goal of riding over 70 miles before stopping for the night.