PHOENIX – Ten years have passed since U-Haul International, Inc. became a national tour partner for the Wounded Warrior Project’s® ever-expanding Soldier Ride® cycling events.
Seventeen U-Haul Team Members and nearly 60 Warriors participated in 2014 Soldier Ride Phoenix in late October – a special occasion for U-Haul since it takes place in the Company’s home city.
A successful, three-day desert ride was capped by a fundraising gala at which Warriors Speak spokesperson Deven Schei, Sgt. (Retired) provided the highlight of the evening with a poignant speech about his journey back from the brink of despair.
Rather than attempt to summarize just how influential Soldier Ride has been our Team Members, we thought it best that some of our U-Haul cyclists who have participated in multiple Soldier Rides tell you in their own words.
Frank Heim, Salvage Program Manager, U.S. Army (Retired)
“What I remember the most is the willingness of the Warriors to keep pushing their limits when it came to each day’s ride. One individual that I rode with, at times, moaned and groaned during each ride. But with the help of fellow Warriors and her determination, she was able to finish each day’s ride without quitting. I also saw in each Warrior the sheer willingness to keep on riding even though they were not used to the warmer-than-usual temperatures that we incurred during each ride.
“Being retired military and seeing what these individuals have gone through, I felt that I needed to support them by riding and talking with them during the rides and at some of the functions that I participated in. Granted, I did not talk to them all. But once they learned that I was in the service, they would open up to me about there experiences and I, in turn, would let them know about some of mine while I served.”
Scott Pobieglo, Engineer
“I have done the Soldier Ride Phoenix for the last three years. I ride with the Wounded Warriors every year because I have a profound respect for the struggles that they have to endure in their rehabilitation. I love to be able to have conversations and encourage them along the rides. As a matter of fact, I usually move from the front to the back and back to the front again when we do the rides. This gives me the opportunity to meet and talk with many different people. I’ll find a few that are struggling and try to help them up the hills. I’ll just talk with them to try and lift their spirits, get to know them.
“My wife (Lindsay) and I also try and attend all the dinners as well. This gives us a couple of hours to hear stories as we eat with the Warriors.”
“This year I met a nice young lady that was introduced to me at the first meet-and-greet. She was very timid and not very talkative. I sat with her for a little bit and kept egging the conversation on. She was nervous about the three rides and was not sure if she would be able to complete them. She had said she hadn’t been on a bike for a very long time. I assured her that it would be OK, that she would have no problems managing the rides, and I would make sure that I was checking on her and helping her whenever she would need it.”
“The first two rides were hard for her mentally and physically, but she completed them. I rode along side her multiple times and encouraged and even helped push her up a couple hills. It was on the final ride on Saturday that she surprised me. I had been helping her up some of the hills that morning and we were at a parking lot that the Soldier Ride was using for a rest area. She told me that before she was injured, she was a tri-athlete. After she had been hurt, she sunk into a depression. She gained a considerable amount of weight not being able to workout, which made her feel even worse. A friend, another Wounded Warrior, convinced her to sign up for the Soldier Ride. She was selected, but her friend was not. That was one reason why she was so nervous about the rides.”
“She told me that the last three days had made her see that she could do more and that when she got back to her home, she was going to get her bikes out of storage and start taking daily rides. Seeing the transformation in the Warriors makes me proud to be part of the Soldier Ride. I will continue to participate every year that I can.”
Lucien Sahali, Environmental Health and Safety Coordinator
“I first became involved six years ago. Every year I’ve seen Solider Ride and Wounded Warrior Project grow, which has been very cool. It’s gone from a very grass-roots thing to becoming very organized. A couple of years ago I remember seeing an advertisement during the Super Bowl. I remember thinking, ‘Wow! These guys are doing a lot of great work.’
“This year it was great to see their organization and how they’ve learned from previous years and applied that. It better serves the Wounded Warriors. I have lingering thoughts about them sometimes. I might be doing something … maybe it’s been a hard day or I’m working on a difficult project. And I think, ‘Well, I can definitely do this. I don’t have truly difficult things to deal with like some of the guys we ride with.’ Seeing the smiles on their faces – that’s one of many ways you know that our situation isn’t that bad when they come back from being injured.
“It’s about a 20-mile ride each of the (three) days. It’s pretty casually paced for the varying athletic degrees of people. For the people on the handcycles – that’s the challenging part. There have been at least 10 each time on the recumbent handcycles.”
Lindsay Pobieglo, Risk Management Loss Prevention Program Manager
“This was my fourth year participating in Soldier Ride. My specific memories about this year’s ride (were the) many additional lasting friendships made. The soldiers are quick to share their experiences and each time I am humbled and honored to listen. The ride, for me, is a journey with some of the most amazing and courageous people.”
Have you been a part of Soldier Ride? Tell us your story in the comments below!