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thedrifter
04-27-07, 10:21 AM
Purple Heart winner, Marine bikes for other veterans
By By Auditi Guha
GateHouse Media
Thu Apr 26, 2007, 11:26 AM EDT

Gettysburg, Pa. -

The Exceptional Athlete Matters. Or at least Denis Oliverio believes so.

The Somerville native who was wounded in Iraq two years ago and has had 15 surgeries to reconstruct his left arm, will be participating in a ride to support all wounded veterans this weekend.

The Maryland resident and Marine won a Purple Heart last year and joins a team called the Pax Rats along with hundreds of other riders for a two-day, 110-mile journey from Gettysburg, Pa., to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda.

“I was in hospital having surgery when the event happened last year,” he said. “I vowed if there was another one, I’d participate.”

Oliverio was shot by a sniper in October 2005, while serving as platoon officer for the Marines’ 1st Tank Battalion, Bravo Company in Karabilah, Iraq.

He was sent to Bethesda for medical care, where doctors performed a dozen operations to repair muscles in his severely damaged left arm.

While recovering, Oliverio was assigned to the Marine Aviation Detachment at Patuxent River Naval Air Station.

He is now the material control officer for Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Two Three (VX-23).

‘‘I think this is good for me mentally, emotionally,” he said. ‘‘It’s an endurance ride and it will rebuild my confidence. I’ll also be able to help the guys who aren’t as far along in their recoveries.”

The event is the World TEAM Sports 2007 Face of America Bike Ride, organized to raise money and awareness for the soldiers, sailors and Marines who have been injured in combat and are now recovering at Bethesda and at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

TEAM is an acronym for The Exceptional Athlete Matters, and the event will have able-bodied participants riding side by side with military personnel who have returned from war with injuries.

For over 17 years, World TEAM Sports has produced inclusive sporting events all over the world, including a ride the length of Vietnam, teaming veterans from both sides of that war, The Face of America rides, and free inclusive sports and character-building programs for inner-city kids.

The 2007 Face of America ride is the fifth such ride, including previous rides from Ground Zero in New York to the Pentagon in 2002 after the 9/11 tragedies.

Oliverio joined the Pax Rats after its W.T. Bufkin asked Oliverio to be the team’s representative for the wounded personnel participating in the ride. Oliverio said it was an honor to ride with them.

The Marine has already surpassed his $1,500 fundraising goal and has raised $1,925. He believes the ride will help his recovery.

“I never thought that I would ride again,” he said.

Earlier this week Oliverio learned that his sister, Susan Fothergill and her husband in Arlington, Mass. have signed on to ride as a member of the Pax Rats and will meet the team in Gettysburg.

He hopes that if people want to make donations, they will contribute to his sister who joined the team late and has yet to reach her pledge goal. “All in all, the goal is to help the disabled,” he said.

You can look up a member or a team on the web site at www.worldteamsports.kintera.org to make your contributions.

The Pax Rats, a 15-member team has been ranked second on the TEAM website and had raised almost $10,700 as of Wednesday.

His wife Kate and their two-and-a-half-year-old daughter will cheer Oliverio at his first ride. “They are very excited and will watch me cross the finish line!”

Ellie