Leatherneck Magazine: 70 Cyclists Journey 430 Miles To Raise $300,000 For Wounded Vets

August 29th, 2011
Angel-Gomez photo by RFSF

Nineteen-year-old Angel Gomez's skull was shattered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his combat troop in Iraq. Doctors had to remove part of the young Marine's brain just to keep him alive. The explosion left him clinging to life, unable to walk or talk. But, it did nothing to his spirit. Today, he's training to ride 430 miles on a retrofitted bike from Phoenix to San Diego with The Ride for Semper Fi, a charity ride that raises awareness and money for military men and women who have suffered life-changing combat injuries like his own. Photo provided by Ride for Semper Fi.

Leatherneck Magazine | Mca-marines.org/leatherneck | August 29, 2011

The Ride for Semper Fi grows into one of the southwest’s premier fundraising events

PHOENIX, Ariz. — 70 Phoenix-area cyclists, including several Marines, are set to pedal 430 miles from Phoenix to San Diego to raise $300,000 for injured Marines returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Ride for Semper Fi kicks off Oct. 12 from Scottsdale, Ariz., and ends three days later at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, Ca. The 70 participating riders, including four injured Marines who have benefited from the fund in the past, will devote nearly five months to a rigorous training regime, completing training rides of up to 100 miles a day. The money they raise will go to the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, which supports injured and critically ill members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families.

“In our first three years, our riders have raised more than $500,000 for the cause,” said John Greenway, founder and chairman of The Ride for Semper Fi. “That money is essential to helping returning Marines and their families pay for medical expenses, physical therapy and other necessary equipment, such as wheelchairs and prostheses—equipment that helps them return to a fulfilling life.”

Since its inception in 2008, the Ride for Semper Fi has grown rapidly. In its first year, the team of riders raised $75,000 to help defray expenses, assist in recovery and support family members of Armed Forces service people injured in combat. In 2009, the team increased its fundraising results to $150,000. In 2010, 50 cyclists participated in The Ride and raised $250,000—far exceeding the team’s fundraising goal of $177,500.

“I’m proud of our growth and that we’ve become one of the most successful fundraising organizations in the area, but I’m most proud of the ordinary people, with jobs, families and commitments who give so much of themselves to make a difference for our country and the soldiers who fight for us,” Greenway said.

Greenway first envisioned The Ride for Semper Fi when he attended his nephew’s graduation from Marine Corps boot camp. Knowing his nephew would likely be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, Greenway became determined to make a significant contribution for his nephew and all other Marines fighting overseas.

Riding with and for heroes

In addition to the team’s many everyday cycling enthusiasts, a group of Marines also will join this year’s ride:
Maj Tres Smith, a helicopter pilot, was shot mid-flight in the leg and arm in Afghanistan on June 18, 2010. Despite his injuries, Major Smith still managed to fly himself and his crew to safety. He underwent seven surgeries and received the Distinguished Flying Cross, which is awarded to aviators and aircrew for heroism and/or extraordinary achievement during aerial flight. The Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund supported Major Smith during his recovery.
GySgt Rob Hilton, back for his second year participating with The Ride, was one of the Marines on the ground during Major Smith’s landing. Since enlisting in the Marine Corp in 1991, Sergeant Hilton has served in Japan, the former Yugoslavia, Guantanamo Bay Cuba, Afghanistan and Iraq. Currently, he is stateside studying Dari, one of the languages spoken in Afghanistan. He will return to Afghanistan in the spring.
LtCol John Field, a CH-46E pilot and Marine of 19 years, has been deployed overseas three times, including once to the Persian Gulf and twice to Iraq as a casualty evacuation pilot.
• Retired LCpl Angel Gomez has made a miraculous recovery since suffering a traumatic brain injury in Iraq in 2007. He spent years relearning how to walk and talk. Even with limited mobility of his right side, LCpl Gomez will make the 430-mile trek with and for his military brothers and sisters for the second year in a row.

Each year, the team selects at least one Marine to honor and keep in remembrance during the ride. This year, the team will honor Major James Weiss, Lieutenant Colonel Mario Carazo, and Staff Sergeant Christopher Antonik. Major Weiss and Lt. Col. Carazo both lost their lives when their helicopter crashed during combat operations in Afghanistan. During nine years of service, SSgt Antonik served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He died while supporting combat operations in Afghanistan.
About The Ride for Semper Fi

The fourth annual Ride for Semper Fi is a philanthropic bicycle ride that begins in Scottsdale, Ariz., and ends three days and 430 miles later at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. Seventy cyclists, including some active duty and retired Marines, will complete the journey. The 2011 Ride begins on Oct. 12, but the fundraising journey begins now with a goal to raise more than $300,000 to benefit the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund.

This year’s title sponsors include Boeing, Wells Fargo and Pentagon Motors.

To learn more about the Ride, or make a donation to the cause, visit www.ride430.com.

About the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund

The Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund is a non-profit charity that has given more than $38 million in grants to more than 15,000 injured Marines and their families. The Fund provides immediate financial assistance to defray hospital bills and recovery expenses.

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