Hundreds of wounded veterans embarked on a Memorial Day bike ride that started in Northern Virginia, and will end hundreds of miles away. The distance they will travel matters less than how far they will have come.
In 2005 a sniper shot Juan Alcivar while he was fighting in Iraq. The bullet shattered his femur, and the disability his confidence.
“I was overweight, I didn't feel like I was a soldier anymore, I didn't feel like I was worth anything,” Alcivar said.
In 2009 he joined other wounded vets for a so-called "ride to recovery." He says it saved his marriage, and his life.
“I get on this bike and it just feels like I'm my old self again. You don't even know how excited I am just to get out there and do this ride. I'm about to blow up if we don't get going here!” he said.
More than 340 riders took off on a 360 mile trek, starting in Arlington and ending in Virginia Beach.
“Some of these guys and girls that are really tough, they hold a lot of stuff in. They go on this ride and start doing 50, 60 miles a day... their body starts breaking down and their mind opens up,” said Mike McNaughton, a veteran of the Afghanistan war.
The ride, which will raise money to support rehab for injured veterans, began with a grueling 50 miles today. Four father-son pairs are among the riders, including Iraq war veteran Donald Weaver and 12-year-old David.
“I wasn't gonna ride it first, but then I saw all the people in the wheelchairs and thought I could do it to. That's my inspiration,” said David.
In just four years, the program has grown from 20 to more than 200 riders. In addition to physical benefits, participants speak of emotional healing. They say it changes how they view themselves. They hope it changes how others view people with disabilities.
“Just because we're injured doesn't mean we're out of the fight. We're still in the fight,” Alcivar said.