Written by Lt. Caleb James
An active lifestyle is vital for resiliency and longevity, making fitness important to active duty personnel and America’s more than 20 million veterans, particularly those re-establishing active lifestyles after having suffered a traumatic injury or service-connected disability. In support of these veterans, Coast Guard’s cycling group, TEAM Coast Guard 1790, doubled their commitment to World TEAM Sports’ 12th annual Face of America charity bicycle ride, which raises awareness for those who have been disabled while serving their country.
Marking the sixth consecutive year of Coast Guard participation, representatives from the Coast Guard Yard, the Telecommunication and Information Security Command, Coast Guard Headquarters, and the Marine Safety Center, cycled the 110 miles from the Pentagon to Gettysburg. Vice Adm. Manson Brown, the deputy commandant for mission support, and two Coast Guard veterans with disabilities also participated, making TEAM Coast Guard 1790 forty-members strong.
Coast Guard Chaplain Cmdr. Kim House started off the ride with an invocation that inspired Face of America’s able-bodied and adaptive athletes as they readied themselves for the challenge ahead.
“Fellowship in recognition of individual and collective accomplishment is tremendously important for veterans who have sacrificed so much in service to this nation,” said House as Coast Guard riders wheeled near America’s monuments to service and sacrifice. “Challenges like today’s become even more impactful when resilient veterans get a chance to share their accomplishments with the broader support community at events like this.”
As the ride progressed, the camaraderie between riders became evident, but so too did the challenge of cycling out of DC’s lowlands and into the high-country surrounding the Potomac River. Lt. Patrick Burnett and Master Chief Petty Officer Terry Vanderwerf assisted adaptive athletes by pushing their recumbent hand-cycles up steep grade climbs.
Master Chief Vanderwerf noted “It’s such a humbling experience to contribute towards topping a steep climb as a group, a goal many riders never thought they could accomplish once, and then repeatedly topping that initial success for the next 100 miles. It’s a testament to the fitness level and tenacity of our wounded veterans.”
“The Coast Guard is proud to join America’s joint military team to honor and provide active support for the disabled veteran community in the National Capital Region and throughout the nation,” said Brown.
The Coast Guard engages with veterans across the nation, but Face of America is a unique event in the nation’s capital.
“At every duty station, Coast Guardsmen regularly participate in similar special events, supporting local veteran service organizations and volunteering with regional veteran support programs,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Shane Hooker, the deputy commandant for mission support command master chief. “Face of America is a great opportunity for Coast Guard personnel to be proactive about their own long-term fitness while getting involved with disabled veterans in a very meaningful way.”
Nearly 200 disabled veterans participated in the 2014 Face of America ride, with 550 total riders from across the country. Collectively, this group generated almost $400,000 as well as immeasurable awareness for veterans re-establishing active lifestyles after suffering a traumatic injury or service-connected disability.
TEAM Coast Guard 1790 set participation records by nearly doubling last year’s team size and raising the largest Coast Guard team entry to date.
Most importantly, TEAM Coast Guard 1790 encouraged their disabled brothers and sisters in arms to accomplish their goals of riding from the Pentagon to Gettysburg.
“The needs of disabled veterans are lasting and the emotional effects of their sacrifice can be permanent. This is a time to reflect on that, and empower America’s veterans to thrive,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Jason Carlson, the Base National Capital Region command master chief.
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