By Lance Cpl. Eric Quintanilla | USMC | Marines.mil | October 15, 2011
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Friends and family cheered as their loved ones crossed the finish line of the fourth annual Ride for Semper Fi at the Bay View Restaurant aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego Oct. 15.
The 430-mile bicycle ride began in Scottsdale, Ariz. and helped raised money for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund. The Semper Fi Fund provides service members and their families immediate financial assistance to help with hospital bills and recovery assistance.
The four-day bicycle ride included injured former Marines who have benefited from the organization in the past as well as avid bicycle riders who wanted to help the cause.
Riders completed between 89 and 112 miles per day. On the third day, as riders were climbing into Julian, Calif., they overcame temperatures of more than 100 degrees with 34 of their daily miles taking them uphill.
“We had injured Marines with us who made those same climbs. These are people who have come back from catastrophic injuries,” said John Greenway, founder and chairman of Ride for Semper Fi. “The amount of inspiration that gives the other riders is just unbelievable. You see people rise to another level of athleticism.”
Riders crossed the finish line with military and police escorts, where family and friends waited to greet their loved ones with signs, flags and cow bells.
“When you finally come across the finish line and see your family and see this beautiful place, a place of history and heroes, it’s a great feeling. It’s hard to even put in words how great it feels,” said Greenway. A
fter an emotional reunion with family and friends, Ride for Semper Fi presented a check to representatives of the Semper Fi Fund. Participants, who were between the ages of 16 and 72 years old spent approximately six months fundraising in their communities to reach $320,000.
“The proceeds from six months of hard work is going to touch literally hundreds, if not thousands, of lives,” said Greenway.
The representatives from Semper Fi Fund were very grateful for the donation.
“The need is as great today as it was a couple years ago, our hospitals still have wounded coming in, still have those who have become critically ill during this conflict and we need to take care of them,” said Wendy Lethin, Semper Fi Fund. “The wonderful thing is that we have community organizations and people like the ride for Semper Fi that’s going towards efforts to take care of our injured.”
The riders spent about five months together preparing for the trek with a rigorous training regime that had them riding more than 2,000 miles, including daily rides up to 100 miles.
“I think if you take the definition of heroes, every rider out here is a hero -- the amount of time, effort, and commitment they put into this ride is unbelievable,” said Maj. Tres Smith, Ride for Semper Fi rider. Last year, Ride for Semper Fi donated a portion of its fundraising efforts to Smith’s recovery from injuries he sustained in Afghanistan.
“If someone was struggling everybody else was sticking with them, they would carry someone up the hill. Everybody was there to support everybody else,” he added.
Ride for Semper Fi started with 21 riders in 2008, after Greenway attended his nephew’s Marine Corps boot camp graduation. They have raised more than half a million dollars in their first three years.
“Each one of these kids was going to make a bigger sacrifice than anything I’ve ever done in my life,” said Greenway. “I realized that day all these kids come back changed, some would come back injured and some would never come back. I thought, ‘you know what, it’s time to do something -- to be part of a bigger cause.’”