While joking that he’ll be eligible for Medicare next year, former US President George W. Bush took to the saddle to ride across Big Bend, Texas with 15 US soldiers who were seriously injured in Afghanistan or Iraq.
The ride, called the Warrior 100 spanned two days last month, and served as the inaugural event of the Social Enterprise Initiative of the George W. Bush Presidential Center.
The President and the riders were also joined by seven time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong on the second day. Among members of the Wounded Warrior Project taking part in the ride was Sergeant Major Chris Self, who has been active duty with the U.S. Army for 25 years, over which he served six deployments before being injured in a firefight in 2005 in Iraq.
“It was unbelievable,” responded President Bush during the post event press conference, regarding the ride. “I am in awe of our troops and what they have done for our country, and how they have recovered from their injuries.”
Since recovering Self went on to serve two additional deployments as a below the knee amputee.
“Getting the opportunity to ride mountain bikes with President Bush is amazing,” said Sgt. Major Self to BikeRadar. “I have had the opportunity to do it twice. He rides hard and enjoys himself. If anyone ever gets the chance to go on a ride with the President I suggest they train because it will not be a stroll through the park. Lance Armstrong was amazing as well and it was awesome riding on his wheel.”
Bush, armstrong and members of the wounded warrior project: Paul Morse
Bush, Armstrong and members of the Wounded Warrior Project
The riders spent two days riding rough trails in the desert of Big Bend National Park in Texas. The Big Bend is one of the few national parks with good multi-use trail access, at a time when mountain bike access remains a hot topic for national parks. Self believes that these events really make a difference to those who have served their country in the armed forces.
“It shows that people like President Bush and all who took part in putting the W100 together, care about the Warriors that have served and sacrificed for their country,” said Self. “It brings wounded warriors together and gives them the opportunity to bound and share each other’s experiences and compare paths to recovery. Fellowship is sometimes just what wounded warriors need. They need to know they are not alone or forgotten.”
While Self also says that the lifelong friends he has made within the Wounded Warriors are unlike any other, the difference he now shares is through a common sacrifice and suffering.
“Nothing will bring people to gather like mutual suffering. Civilians see it once in a while during disasters like Katrina, but Warriors experience it often in training and at war.”
Self remains a team player, and says he was reminded of it during the Warrior 100 ride. “Knowing the man or woman to your right and left has gone through the same training you have and they have your back and trust that you have their back; that is a relationship only warriors can experience and appreciate,” he said. “You respect and appreciate all they have done and will do because they are your brothers and sisters.”