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thedrifter
04-19-07, 07:40 AM
Hurt soldiers cycle past battlefields

SHORE RESIDENTS TO PARTICIPATE IN RIDE FOR AMERICA
Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 04/19/07

BY KIRK MOORE
TOMS RIVER BUREAU

These cyclists will ride through the scene of the bloodiest days in American history — and some bear the scars from battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bicyclists from across the country will meet in Gettysburg, Pa., for the April 28-29 Face of America Ride, an event to bring together disabled soldiers, athletes and able-bodied riders. Riding alongside them from the Civil War battlefield south to Bethesda, Md., will be scores of supporters, like 15-year-old Anthony Frascella of Point Pleasant.

"I've been riding to the firehouse, up and down to the bridge, to get ready. They say there are some tough hills on the route," said Frascella, a 10th-grade student at Point Pleasant High School.

Frascella found out about the ride through his mother, Lynette, who heads the wounded team for Soldiers' Angels, an Internet-based support and aid group for troops overseas, the wounded in stateside hospitals, and their families. He's come to know some soldiers and Marines himself and bounced the idea off them.

"This is my first big ride," he said. "It's 110 miles, she told me. I said OK, I'll think about it.

"So I talked to a couple of the guys. I was talking to one Marine who said it would be cool if I were to go. So I said, I'm going to do this. It's something I need to accomplish."

Frascella will get some training from Dorothy Ginda of Middletown, a longtime cyclist who rode in last year's Face of America ride from Gettysburg and is ready to go again.

"Riding my bike is great fun, and I really enjoyed racing for a few years," said Ginda, 38, a mom who still rides regularly with the 3D Racing Team based in Monmouth County. "But being on my bike and being able to help someone who was an athlete prior to his injury . . . was one of the best things I could do."

"They told me to be prepared," Ginda recalled. "The guys were all young, and they're all injured less than a year." The impact of seeing so many young amputees was overwhelming at first, and "it just takes you back, but you can't let that happen in front of them," she said.

Some of the riders use hand-cranked cycles, and the low-slung machines require organizers to ensure an added measure of safety, Ginda said. "You can't see a hand-cycle from a car, they're in your blind spot," she noted. So a lot of the escorts' work is keeping close to those riders so they'll be seen as a group.

On the toughest hills, riders help push each other to the top — a difficult but not impossible task when perched on two wheels, Ginda said.

"Last year I was on the bike for, I think, nine or 10 hours the first day," she said. "It's not about how fast you're going, it's about getting there, and trying. And if you finish on your own engine, so much the better."

The civilian riders learn "it's not about me, I'm going to do whatever it takes to get these people up these hills," she said. "All those guys want to thank you, and I'm thinking: You guys went (into the military) for me, for my family. This is nothing."

The event is organized by World TEAM Sports, a Dorchester, Mass.-based nonprofit group. Its acronym stands for The Exceptional Athlete Matters, and "World TEAM always pairs able-bodied athletes with disabled athletes," said Ginda, who rode in the group's 2003 ride from New York to Washington.

The Gettysburg meet is being held in cooperation with Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and other groups. It runs some 110 miles through the farms and hills of Pennsylvania and western Maryland, with an overnight stop at Frederick, Md., before ending up at the Bethesda hospital.

When the event was held around the same time last year, it attracted 26 active duty servicemen, including 10 who had been seriously wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with more than 100 other riders who included civilian bicycle enthusiasts and disabled veterans and civilian athletes from some 20 states.

Active-duty military men and women are invited to ride without paying any entry fee, while civilian riders like Frascella are ponying up $50 toward the cause — along with pledges of at least $500 from supporters back home. The money pays for costs of hosting active duty riders, including accommodations, meals and hydration at rest stops, use of bicycles, riding clinics and other training and costs connected to the event, according to World TEAM Sports.

Kirk Moore: (732) 557-5728

Ellie