TUCSON, ARIZ. – Bikes weave in and out, one after the next, navigating water bottles, towels and sticks placed as obstacles in a Tucson hotel parking lot as riders go through a warm-up routine before an open-road workout.
When obstacles are clipped, there is a bit of razzing – but from smiling friends who share an unbreakable bond.
Some members of the U.S. Military Endurance Sports team look as you might envision them, riding traditional bicycles with the use of all of their appendages. Other members ride customized trikes and handcycles to utilize the healthy limbs that remain after injuries on the battlefield.
“This is a team,” USMES director of operations Jim Weinstein said. “It’s not one event. It’s not one-and-done. This is 24 – 7 – 365. This is home. We’re here. We want to help you safely develop.”
U-Haul International, Inc. is a proud supporter of the USMES program, a division of American Servicemembers Amateur Sports, Inc. (ASAS) and a non-profit organization chartered to support amateur athletes, endurance sports education and activities for current, retired and veteran members of the U.S. Armed Forces.
USMES supports cycling, triathlon, running, and adventure racing teams for amateur athletes of all abilities, including special programs for wounded veteran and adaptive athletes.
That’s the extended way of stating a simple mission: USMES gives current and former military men and women a place to belong, heal, get physically fit and compete among people who care.
U-Haul, which has a distinguished track record of hiring and supporting U.S. veterans, has assisted the USMES through: the use of a storage locker in Virginia; the use of U-Box containers for on-site equipment storage at camps and events; and U-Haul truck use (and support rental items such as furniture pads) for equipment transportation.
“The shelf (Mom’s Attic) is really handy,” said Liz West, a renowned triathlete and USMES adaptive manager who helps get the riders’ equipment where it needs to go.
The abilities of USMES members touch all ends of the spectrum, as do the organization’s programs. There is club program for non-elite athletes who meet throughout the year for races and camps across 16 regions in the U.S. and Europe.
There also are elite athletes. USMES boasts a men’s elite cycling team and elite programs for triathletes, runners, female cyclists, mountain bike/track cycling and adaptive/para cycling athletes. There are minimum requirements in this highly competitive program.
“They set the goals for the rest of the team,” USMES elite programs manager George Ganoung said of his group. “They do a lot of teaching and they provide a goal of what dedicated exercise is. Not everybody will make the elite team. They know that. But it’s something to aspire to.”
“Where do you want to start and where do you want to end up?” Weinstein asked. “From the beginner who says I got to get some running shoes and get something done, all the way up. For us it’s just super exciting to be able to share in that process.”
USMES is always seeking additional members, both able-bodied and wounded, to join its organization and get fit while reconnecting with their military roots. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
There were a record 84 people on hands when U-Haul External Communications Team Members visited the USMES annual spring camp in Tucson.
Some riders were there to get in shape. Others had winning 2015 events and reaching the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro on their minds.
Every one of them was grateful for the help that U-Haul has extended the last four years.
Did you know U-Haul is one of the founding partners of Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride? Have you participated or do you know someone who has participated in USMES or Soldier Ride? Please share your thoughts on these programs and U-Haul Company’s support in the comment box below.